Time Regained (1999) 




Director:     Raoul Ruiz

Starring:    Catherine Deneuve (Odette de Crecy), Emmanuelle Bιart (Gilberte), Vincent Perez (Morel), John Malkovich (Le Baron de Charlus), Pascal Greggory (Saint-Loup), Marcello Mazzarella (Marcel Proust), Marie-France Pisier (Madame Verdurin), Chiara Mastroianni (Albertine), Arielle Dombasle (Madame de Farcy), Edith Scob (Oriane de Guermantes), Elsa Zylberstein (Rachel), Christian Vadim (Bloch), Dominique Labourier (Madame Cottard), Philippe Morier-Genoud (Monsieur Cottard), Melvil Poupaud (Le Prince de Foix)

life of French writer and critic Marcel Proust, most famous for his In Search of Lost Time begun in 1909




The life of Marcel Proust is revealed in flashbacks as he is on his deathbed. Some of the flashbacks are of his beloved mother and grandmother, Odette, the beautiful Gilberte, Baron de Charlus, and his  lover Albertine.  The memories parallel the final volume of Proust's greatest novel.

Warning: the flashback scenes are not in any chronological order and the movie can seem confusing.  If it's any consolation, that's the way memories often come back to us, not in a neat chronological order.

Proust's life coincides with that of the suppression of the Paris Commune, the consolidation of the French Republic and WWI.


Good movie?  I don't know.  Personally I didn't like it.  It was too artsy-fartsy for my taste.  There didn't seem to be any real point to the movie other than following the insights of a member of the privileged class in France during and after the First World War.  But what's the point?  And what's the point of Proust's very life?  He liked the autobiographical novel, but his own life did not seem that eventful or interesting. 

I give thanks for not being a member of the privileged class in France during that time.  Judging from the movie, they were a pack of boors constantly attending fancy parties and recitals they gave for each other.  They were constantly dropping names and relishing the fact that they knew so many important people.  Big deal.  A boor is a boor is a boor, no matter how rich or powerful. 

Proust was a homosexual and there are many references to homosexuality among the male characters and one female character.  But their world seems just as boring and empty as their heterosexual counterparts. 

And it is oh so difficult to try to keep straight who is who.  There are just too many names, too frequently dropped to easily follow the story.   

Lots of talk about life among the rich during WWI.  While Germany was a warrior society, France was one of the arts and gaiety.  No wonder the French had such a hard time against the Germans. 

Well, if you want to try to make sense out of it, good luck.  I tried to keep notes on who was who, but now that I review them I wonder once again, what's the point?  I don't think I would ever be tempted to read Proust. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

Marcel-Valentin-Louis-EugPne-Georges Proust


1852-1870 – Napoleon III of France, Emperor.  He started the Franco-Prussian War that ended badly for France.

1870-1871 – Louis Jules Trochu, interim president.

Paris Commune of 1871(March 18-May 28)   --  the socialist government briefly ruled Paris before it was forcefully removed. 


1871-1873  --  Adolphe Thiers, president. 

1871 – Proust was born into a well-to-do family two months after the formal end of the Franco-Prussian War.

Proust's father was a doctor who wrote about 20 books on medicine and hygiene. His mother was from a rich, cultured Jewish family.

1873-1879  --  Patrice Mac-Mahon duc de Magenta, president.

1879-1887  --  Jules Grevy, president.

1880 – Proust had his first serious asthma attack. Everyone considered him sickly.

The family spent long holidays in the village of Illiers.

1887 - 1894  --  Marie Franηois Sadi Carnot, president.

1889-1890 – in spite of his poor health, Proust served a year in the French army, stationed at Coligny Caserne in Orlιans.

1892 – he helped found a literary review called Le Banquet. In addition, Proust published small pieces regularly in this journal and in the prestigious La Revue Blanche.

Proust was homosexual and had a relationship with the composer Reynaldo Hahn. 

Proust was at that time somewhat of a snob and an aesthete.

1894-1895 – Jean Casimir-Pιrier, president.

Beginning 1895 – Proust started reading Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Ruskin. He especially enjoyed the works of Ruskin, such as The Seven Lamps of Architecture, The Bible of Amiens, and Praeterita. His skills in English were not that good, but Proust started on the translation of two of Ruskin's works into French. (He had help from his mother and Marie Nordlinger, the English cousin of his lover Reynaldo Hahn.)

1895-1899 – Fιlix Faure, president.

1896 – he published many of his early pieces in a compendium, Les Plaisirs et les Jours. The book's foreword was by Anatole France. (The book was poorly received.)

1896 – he began work on a novel, Jean Santeuil, that was not published until 1954.

1896 (summer) – to meet his father’s demands, Proust took a volunteer position at the BibliothPque Mazarine. But he never actually worked at his job. And, moreover, he lived in his parents' apartment until after both were dead.

1897 – Proust abandoned the novel Jean Santeuil.

1899-1906  --  Ιmile Loubet, president

1903 (February) – Proust's brother Robert married and left the family apartment.

1903 (September) – his father died.

1904 – the translated The Bible of Amiens was published.

1905 (September) – Proust's beloved mother died. The only consolation for Proust was he received a very large inheritance which let him have the freedom to write.

1906-1913  --  Armand FalliPres, president.

1906 – publication of the translated version of Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies.

1908 – Proust began work on what became Contre Saint-Beuve

1909    --  he started work on his masterpiece, the semi-biographical In Search of Lost Time, a work that he finished just before his death. This masterpiece has seven volumes.  The work is heavily influenced by his reading Tolstoy.  Proust has also been compared with German writer Thomas Mann.  Proust himself claimed that his aim was to write a French version of The Thousand and One Nights.

by 1910 – he was at work on A la recherche du temps perdu.

1913-1920  --  Raymond Poincarι, president.

1913-1927 A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, also Remembrance of Things Past).

1913 – Du cτtι de chez Swann (Swann's Way, also The Way by Swann's), the first Volume of In search of Lost Time.  The second part of this volume deals with Charles Swann's love for and jealousy of the Parisian courtesan, Odette de Crecy.  Gilberte is the girl Marcel had a crush on as a boy; the daughter of Swann and Odette  Odette later became Madame de Forcheville.

1914-1918  --  World War I. 

1918 – Proust spent the last three years of his life largely confined to his bedroom. He would sleep during the day and work at night.

1918 – A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur (In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, also Within a Budding Grove).  This is Volume II.

1920 (Feb. 18-September 21) – Paul Deschanel, president.

1920-1924 – Alexandre Millerand, president.

1920 – Le cτtι de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way).  This is Volume III. 

1922 – Sodome et Gomorrhe (Sodom and Gomorrah, also Cities of the Plain) .   This is Volume IV. 

1922 – death of Proust of pneumonia.

1923 – La prisonniPre (The Prisoner, also The Captive).  This is Volume V. 

1925 – Albertine disparue (original title: La fugitive) (The Fugitive, also The Sweet Cheat Gone). This is Volume VI.

1927 – Le temps retrouvι (Finding Time Again, also Time Regained and The Past Recaptured).   This is Volume VII. 

1929 – Pastiches et mιlanges.

1954 – Contre Sainte-Beuve.

1954  --  publication of Jean Santeuil (unfinished).



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