Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
“In the Name of My Daughter” is the seventh André Téchiné film to star French legend Catherine Deneuve. Deneuve shares top billing, but she’s really a supporting character in this drama based on the book written by the real-life casino boss she plays, Renée Le Roux. Le Roux was the mother of Agnes Le Roux (Adèle Haenel), a twentysomething divorcee and heiress who may have been murdered by Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet). The film barely seems to care about Agnes’s disappearance and the ensuing criminal trials, squeezing them into the shortest of its three acts. Those looking for a courtroom drama or the emotional tugging that might result from a mother’s 30-year fight to get justice for her daughter will find little to chew on here.
Instead, we’re primarily privy to a power struggle between Renée and Fratoni (Jean Corso), a fellow casino boss with Mafia ties who wants to take over her casino, and Agnes’s doomed love story. Both of these plotlines have Agnelet in a prominent role. While serving as Renée’s lawyer, he advises her to serve as the new president of her casino in the hopes of riding her coattails to a high position within the organization. When that fails, he goads the smitten Agnes into colluding with her mother’s enemy to wrest away control of the casino.
Renée and Agnes have a frayed relationship, made even more troubled by Renée’s refusal to give Agnes her inheritance money. Agnes is at first depicted as independent, opening her own bookstore and taking the initiative in how she paces her relationship with Agnelet. As the film progresses, however, she becomes stereotypically dependent and unhinged, stalking a man who clearly does not love her and writing pages upon pages of florid diary entries. Haenel gives her performance more shadings than one might expect—her sense of guilt as she betrays her mother is superbly underplayed—but her multiple scenes of obsession become redundant.
Agnelet is the kind of creep women in movies fall for all the time. He’s upfront about his commitment phobia, blatantly juggling multiple women at once, yet everyone he screws goes mad for him, hoping he’ll surrender to their eventual pleas for monogamy. One of his current friends-with-benefits, Françoise (Judith Chemla), warns Agnes about Agnelet’s player tendencies before Agnes gets involved. Later, during her court testimony, Françoise evokes that dreadful scene in Minnelli’s “Gigi” where the old French women reminisce about their first suicide attempts over a man. “Every woman has tried to kill herself over Maurice,” she says nonchalantly. “Even me.” Honey, he is not all that.