In late nineteenth century Charante, Protestant minister Jean Barnery causes local disquiet when he arranges a separation from his obsessive wife – and more talk when he decides to take her back. By this time he has been drawn to Pauline, niece of a Cognac distiller, and this precipitates him divorcing his wife, settling on her and his daughter the shares he owns in his family’s porcelain factory. He resigns the ministry, marries Pauline, and moves to Switzerland and a tranquil life. On the death of his father he agrees to return home to save the factory, knowing the problems it will bring will change his life completely. So it proves, with service in the Great War having a further profound impact on him and those around him.
User Reviews: Having just yawned through three hours of "Les Destinees Sentimentales" I find myself asking yet again, "Whatever has happened to French cinema?" Time was in the ’60’s and ’70’s when it was one of the most fertile sources in the world with masterworks such as Chabrol’s "Le Boucher" and Goretta’s "La Dentelliere" appearing with amazing frequency to say nothing about little gems such as Alain Dhouailly’s "Inutile Envoyer Photo" about which I can find nothing on this database. There was even "Permis de Conduire", a delightful trifle about a man trying to pass his driving test which seems to have passed unnoticed, but which, had it been made in the UK, would no doubt have brought forth the sort of accolades we used to give to such films as "Genevieve"; in actual fact I thought the French film so much better. In France Andre Techine seems to be the only director doing worthwhile things these days – if readers know of others I would be glad to hear of them. For the rest, two genres seem to predominate, inconsequential stories of everyday human relationships a la Eric Rohmer, but without that master’s sophistication and subtlety, and period literary adaptations which seem to have a statutory length of at least three hours. In this latter category comes "Les Destinees Sentimentales" a dreary saga of a family running a porcelain factory that starts at the beginning of the 20th century moving forward to the period between the two World Wars. It mainly deals with marital and business ups and downs. With the one exception of an estranged wife magnificently played by Isabelle Huppert, the rest are singularly boring company. Even the central character. a Protestant cleric who abandons his calling, seems incapable of conveying the suffering of spiritual doubt in the way that Gunnar Bjornstrand so memorably achieved in Bergman’s "Winter Light". In the end it all seems such a waste of effort by a youngish director, Olivier Assayas, who is clearly not without talent. Early on there is a ballroom scene that has that excitment of movement often to be found in the best of Scorsese. If he were to choose his subject matter more carefully there is the ability there to make a really good film. I have to admit that this is the only Assayas film I have seen so he may well have done this already. Again I would appreciate hearing from readers on this point.