Berlinale 2024 review: 'Hors du temps' ('Suspended Time') - avoid this self-indulgent Covid diary

Hors du temps
Hors du temps Copyright Berlinale
Copyright Berlinale
By David Mouriquand
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French director Olivier Assayas casts Vincent Macaigne as his alter ego in a tedious and wildly pretentious Covid diary film that only highlights the routines of the privileged.


Are you curious as to how French director Olivier Assayas spent his 2020 Covid lockdown?

If you have a modicum of sanity or self-respect, the answer is an emphatic ‘no’. However, the celebrated filmmaker behind the excellent Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper seems to think his lockdown was interesting enough to merit a feature length film.

Most baffling of all, the Berlinale decided it merited an inclusion in the Official Competition.

We’re plunged back into the early days of the global pandemic, with a broadly fictionalised portrait of the artist as a pompous navel-gazer, punctuated by autobiographical narration from the director himself. His alter ego Paul (Vincent Macaigne) quarantines in his Chevreuse Valley countryside family home with his music-journo brother Etienne (Micha Lescot) and their respective partners, Morgane (Nina D’Urso) and Carole (Nora Hamzawi). They cook, they exercise, they read, they disinfect groceries, they play music blind tests in the gorgeous garden. The only tension comes from the brothers occasionally bickering, as the neurotic Paul anxiously adheres to the fluctuating hygiene rules while the unflappable Etienne is finding comfort in crepes. One secretly believes this is something of a utopia (despite saying that he feels for those less privileged than himself); the other feels like his freedom has been denied.

It’s hard not to relate with the latter when stuck in a movie theatre watching Hors du temps (Suspended Time).

I’ll keep this brief, so as not to waste your time like Assayas wasted mine. Hors du temps is a breathtakingly self-indulgent misfire that fails to capture anything resembling insight with regards to a not particularly cherished time. The topic of Covid lockdown, while dreaded, could have been fertile ground for an intimate exploration of our anxious pandemic days, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Instead, we’re offered an insufferable cascade of intellectual posturing from a dullard safe in his book-lined house who namedrops Racine, Renoir and David Hockney whenever possible. The sibling chamaillement only provides some mild odd-couple entertainment, but nothing saves this vanity project from being strenuously uninteresting.

Which leads to another line of inquiry: Who is this for?

The answer: Assayas. No one else. Just Assayas.

So, if you thought your time was stolen during the lockdown, don’t make the mistake of attempting to reclaim some of it by allowing Assayas’ meandering film into your lives.

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