Time Regained

France/Italy/Portugal 1999

Reviewed by Keith Reader


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Paris, after World War I. The reclusive and asthmatic Marcel Proust, all but bedridden, is finishing his opus A la recherche du temps perdu. He scrutinises photographs of the major figures in his life and the fictional text. The rest of the narrative oscillates between the Verdurin and Guermantes salons in Paris, Marcel's childhood in the village of Combray, his youthful summer vacations at the Norman resort of Balbec, later stays in Venice and the war years in Paris.

From childhood to maturity, Marcel moves through an at once real and imagined world whose denizens include: the camp Baron de Charlus, Charlus' one-time lover the violinist Charlie Morel, the war-hero Saint-Loup and his wife Gilberte, the Prince de Guermantes and his wife Oriane, the brassy socialite Madame Verdurin, Charles Swann and his coquettish wife Odette (Gilberte's mother), and the actress and singer Rachel. Past and present, the experienced, the remembered and the partly forgotten overlap and flow into one another like the stream with which the film begins. At the end, the older Marcel watches as his boyhood self runs along the beach at Balbec, time at last regained through art.


The less-than-linear form of the synopsis above illustrates one of the major difficulties in filming or writing about Proust's towering classic of modernity. The story of an invalid writer facing premature death who retrieves through art his childhood anxieties and adult frivolities, the gap between the overarching narrative and the myriad smaller narratives which comprise A la recherche is too vast to be bridged even in a film as long as this. Earlier Proust-based films have dealt with this problem by narrowing their focus to the microcosm that is Un Amour de Swann (Volker Schlöndorff's film of that title), or to the final days of the historical Proust's life as he wrote against the clock of death (Percy Adlon's superb Céleste). For Time Regained Raoul Ruiz adapts a similar strategy, but goes for broke by concentrating on the work's final volume, in which its multifarious narrative strands converge and it becomes clear that its end is in its beginning. The result is richer and more inclusive in its sweep than previous adaptations and more visually spectacular. The colours - notably the gold of many of the salon scenes echoing the sands of Balbec or the architecture of Venice - are ravishing, and the movements of the camera, at once caressing and sweeping, impart a thrill rarely encountered in the cinema.

Nonetheless, Time Regained is anything but a heritage movie, as you would expect for a film made by a Chilean expatriate with a background in leftist politics and experimental film-making. Ruiz rewrites Proust in cinematic terms. The camera movements - particularly at the end where we move from the Guermantes salon through a 'room of memory' dotted with top hats to a terrace and the beach at Balbec - correspond to the oscillations of the written narration between the recollected and the imagined, the past and the present. In this respect the film evokes Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad, notably in the salon scenes (Madame Verdurin's high-pitched laugh, as if poised on the brink of hysteria, echoes Delphine Seyrig's in Marienbad).

Time Regained is a tour de force, gorgeous yet stark. That starkness is achieved partly through the constant threat or actual presence of war which gives an edge to the scenes of brittle social comedy, partly through the unflinching way the film treats such scenes as Charlus' flagellation in Jupien's gay bordello, which offsets potential charges of voyeurism by the exquisitely simple device of framing the narrating Marcel in a window as the blows descend. The cast are on the whole splendid. Catherine Deneuve is at once queenly and raffish as Odette, Emmanuelle Béart gives the most mature performance of her career as Gilberte and Marie-France Pisier is magnificently high-camp as Madame Verdurin. If there is a false note it's struck by John Malkovich's Charlus - competing, alas, with Alain Delon's magnificent performance in the Schlöndorff film, and far too reedy-voiced and mincing to carry the same weight as Proust's grotesque, but ultimately loving and loveable character.

My one anxiety concerns how accessible Ruiz's film will be to an audience with little or no knowledge of the source novel. Its extraordinary textual sweep is likely to bewilder such viewers. The brief allusions to the force of involuntary memory, notably in the 'madeleine scene', could well pass them by altogether. However, Ruiz has come closer than either of his predecessors to the superhuman task of filming Proust in his entirety, for which it would be churlish to criticise him. The audacious transposition of the finale, from an epiphany in the Guermantes salon to one on a Norman beach, works because the waves of the sea echo the flowing stream of the beginning, in a triumphant cinematic correlative of what a leading Proust scholar once described to me as an extraordinarily happy ending. The happiest ending, for viewers unfamiliar with the original, would be for them to be drawn to it by Ruiz's masterly film.


Raoul Ruiz
Paulo Branco
Gilles Taurand
Raoul Ruiz
Based on the book by
Marcel Proust
Director of Photography
Ricardo Aronovich
Denise de Casabianca
Art Director
Bruno Beaugé
Jorge Arriagada
©Gemini Films/ France 2 Cinéma/ Blu Cinematografica
Production Companies
Gemini Films/France 2 Cinéma/Les Films du Lendemain/Paulo Branco present a co-production of Gemini Films/France 2 Cinéma/Les Films du Lendemain/Blu Cinematografica
In association with Madragoa Filmes
With the support of Fonds Eurimages
With the participation of Canal+/Centre National de la Cinématographie and the assistance of La Procirep
Associate Producers
Leo Pescarolo
Massimo Ferrero
Production Manager
Philippe Saal
In Charge of Production
Elisabeth Bocquet
Rita Del Chiappa
Unit Production Managers
David Mitnik
Vanessa Ferrero
Unit Managers
Olivier 'Jones' Michel
Antoine Moussault
Assistant Directors
Antoine Beau
Guillaume Roitfeld
Eric Agopian
Script Supervisor
Barbara Constantine
Richard Rousseau
Adriana Sabbatini
Camera Operator
Sabine Lancelin
Snow and Rain
Christophe Messaouid
Francine Robillard
Costume Designers
Gabriella Pescucci
Caroline de Vivaise
Costume Supervisors
Jean-Pierre Giudice
Frédéric Malher
Patricia Saalburg
Alessandro Lai
Eric Perron
Fabio Perrone
Historic Costumes Consultant
Farid Chennoune
Cédric Gérard
Hervé Soulié
Dominique-Henri Plez
Special Effects Key:
Benoît Lestang
Emmanuel Pitois
Tiziana Sisi
Catherine Leblanc
Sylvie Gluck
Christine Leaustic
Jacqueline Stuffel
Agnese Panarotto
Theme Sung by
Natalie Dessay
Philippe Morel
Gérard Rousseau
Post-sync Sound Engineers
Jean-Charles Martel
Laurent Dreyer
Post-sync Supervisor
Patrice Severac
Sound Editors
Vincent Guillon
2nd Unit:
Corinne Rozenberg
Sound Effects
Pascal Mazière
Muriel Bec
Catherine Deneuve
Odette de Forcheville
Emmanuelle Béart
Vincent Perez
Charlie Morel
Pascal Greggory
Robert de Saint-Loup
Marie-France Pisier
Madame Simone Verdurin
Chiara Mastroianni
Arielle Dombasle
Madame de Farcy
Edith Scob
Oriane de Guermantes
Elsa Zylberstein
Christian Vadim
Albert Bloch
Dominique Labourier
Madame Cottard
Philippe Morier-Genoud
Monsieur Cottard
Melvil Poupaud
Prince de Foix
Mathilde Seigner
Jacques Pieiller
Hélène Surgère
Andrè Engel
Marcel as an old man
Georges Du Fresne
Marcel as a child
Monique Mélinand
Marcel's grandmother
Laurence Février
Marcel's mother
Jean-François Balmer
Uncle Adolphe
Marcello Mazzarella
Marcel Proust
John Malkovich
Baron de Charlus
Patrice Chéreau
voice of Marcel Proust
Pierre Mignard
Marcel as an adolescent
Lucien Pascal
Prince de Guermantes
Jérôme Prieur
Monsieur Verdurin
Bernard Pautrat
Charles Swann
Alain Robbe-Grillet
Ingrid Caven
Russian princess
Jean-Claude Jay
Duc de Guermantes
Camille Du Fresne
Gilberte as a child
Alain Guillo
the great designer
Xavier Brière
Marcel's butler
Bernard Garnier
Monique Couturier
Marquise de Villeparisis
Alain Rimoux
Monsieur Bontemps
Isa Mercure
Madame Bontemps
Pierre Alain Chapuis
Guermantes butler
Jean-François Lapalus
head waiter, Café de la Paix
Damien O'Doul
Gaspard, cook in Café de la Paix
Daniel Isoppo
hotel manager, Balbec
Patrice Juiff
young waiter, Balbec
Pascal Tokatlian
hotel bellhop, Balbec
Marine Delterme
Morel's friend
Jean Badin
Rachel's husband
Laurent Schwarr
Hattou Mess
Monsieur Léon
Alexandre Soulie
Louis, military man
Sébastien Libessart
2nd military man
Fabrice Cals
Jean-Pierre Allain
workmen at Jupien
Carl de Miranda
sailor at Jupien
Hervé Falloux
Monsieur Redingote
Philippe Lehembre
Rosita Mital
old maid
Tatie Vauville
old maid's mother
Michel Armin
distinguished client at Jupien
Pierre Villanova
Monsieur René
André Delmas
priest at Jupien
Philippe Gauguet
Jupien's chauffeur
Serge Brincat
waiter, Café de la Paix
Yann Claassen
Bruno Guillot
Emmanuel Crepin
military men, Café de la Paix
Francis Leplay
Jupien's employee
Isabelle Auroy
Madame de Sainte Euverte
Jacques-François Zeller
Marcel's grandfather
Serge Dekramer
Marcel's father
Suzy Marquis
old woman at Gilberte
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Gilberte's daughter
Georgette Bastien-Vona
Madame de Marsantes
René Marquant
Monsieur d'Argencourt
Laetitia Colin-Vialaneix
Maxime Nourissat
Romain Sellier
Charles's friend, Café de la Paix
Pierre Pitrou
Alexandre Boussat
René, Morel's friend
Sheila Irubacek
Vicomtesse de Saint-Fiacre
Bernard Barberet
one-legged man
Diane Dassigny
pianist, Bal de Tête
Guillaume Choquet
violinist, Bal de Tête
Alain Duclos
Uncle Adolphe's valet
Raymonde Bronstein
double, aged Gilberte
Madeleine Lechoux
double, aged Madame Verdurin
Alberte Barbou
double, aged Rachel
Jean Léger
double, André Engel
Manuela Morgaine
Christian Magis
blind man
Daniel Beretta
additional voice of Baron de Charlus
Artificial Eye Film Company
14,595 feet
162 minutes 11 seconds
Digital DTS sound/Dolby digital
In Colour
Anamorphic [Panavision]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011