JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Babies (Director: Thomas Balmès) - December 31, 2010


5 5
79 min.

Life begins with four coats of innocence

Once upon a time there was an Algerian man with an idea. “What if we tell the story of four new lives from geographically different parts of the globe,” thought actor Alain Chabat.

Being clever enough to know that he needed some help bringing his idea to the big screen, Chabat turned to noted French filmmaker Thomas Balmès to help with the words, direction, crew and cash.

Soon, the structure for the first year of existence was established and the mommies and daddies selected. Because four lives (Ponijao from Namibia, Bayarjargal from Mongolia, Mari from Tokyo and Hattie from San Francisco) were going to be the unsuspecting cast, an equal number of cameramen (Jérôme Alméras, Frazer Bradshaw, Steeven Petitteville, Eric Turpin) were given the wonderful task of chronicling everything from birth to breast feeding to playing with siblings and just the innocent wonder of being alive.

Nothing was really planned and the dialogue was entirely free form—how could a script say “Hattie screams with joy” or “Ponijao cries in desperate hunger?” The baby stars were given the go ahead to improvise every scene. The magic came in the editing suite (Raymond Bertrand, Craig McKay). With so much footage begging to be in the show, Chabat must have had some fatherly decisions to make on behalf of his own cinematic family. His wisdom fills every frame.

Once everything was put together, composer Bruno Coulais (whose talents we recall from The Choruscross-reference below) wisely crafted a score that added zest and punch to the action and transitions but knew instinctively that no “epic” scale was required: the kids were clearly the main attraction.

Even the animals (an extra-patient dog and some rambunctious goats in particular) couldn’t steal a scene, much to W.C. Fields’ chagrin.

For seventy-nine minutes the show goes merrily on; its plot doesn’t matter. The only question left to ask: Will they all live happily ever after? JWR

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