At the very least, María Álvarez’s “Le Temps Perdu” may give hope to anyone who has always 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 seniors who gather to enjoy “In Search of Lost Time” in Spanish translation. They have gone through the novel a few times and have met for almost two decades.
Sitting around a table, the men and women read aloud from what appears to be laminated prints from the beloved multi-volume book. They muse on certain passages and share echoes of their daily lives: the lasting memory of the smile of a deceased husband, or a hospital visit where madeleines were on the menu. A man keeps explaining that his daughter’s name is Albertine, just like the main character in the book who is the narrator’s romantic obsession.
The film, perhaps as a certain writer, seeks the connection between the mundane and the transcendent in the group’s activity, the book ends with poetic montages and liberal use of Debussy’s ‘Syrinx’. There is some poignancy and amusement in how the experiences of time and love are expressed in the novel and in the lives of the readers. (The film is probably best seen in a movie theater, another common area.)
You can’t ask for richer reading material, even if the film doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of its premise. Believe it or not, there’s already stiff competition: A similar 2013 documentary, “The Joycean Society,” covers “Finnegans Wake” in just under an hour.
Le Temps Perdu
Not judged. In Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. In theatres.