At the very least, María Álvarez’s “Le Temps Perdu” might give hope to anyone who has ever intended to finish – or start – Proust. Shot almost entirely in a Buenos Aires cafe, the cozy black-and-white documentary sits with a group of elderly people who come together to savor “In Search of Lost Time” in Spanish translation. They went through the romance a few times, dating for almost two decades.
Sitting around a table, men and women read aloud from what look like laminated prints of the beloved multi-volume book. They meditate on certain passages and share echoes with their daily lives: the lasting memory of the smile of a deceased husband, or a visit to the hospital where madeleines were on the menu. A man keeps explaining that his daughter’s name is Albertine, like the key character in the book who is the narrator’s amorous obsession.
The film, perhaps like a certain writer, seeks the link between the everyday and the transcendent in the group’s activity, a book finished with poetic montages and a liberal use of Debussy’s “Syrinx”. There is emotion and fun in the way the experiences of time and love transpire in the novel and in the readers’ lives. (The film is probably best seen in a cinema, another communal space.)
You couldn’t ask for richer reading material, even if the film doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of its premise. Believe it or not, the competition is already fierce: A similar 2013 documentary, “The Joycean Society,” tackles “Finnegans Wake” in just under an hour.
Unclassified. In Spanish with subtitles. Duration: 1h42. In theaters.