At the very least, María Álvarez’s “Le Temps Perdu” might give hope to anyone who has always meant to finish — or start — Proust. Shot almost entirely in a Buenos Aires cafe, the cozy black-and-white documentary sits in with a group of seniors who gather to savor “In Search of Lost Time” in Spanish translation. They’ve gone through the novel a few times, meeting for nearly two decades.
Seated around a table, the men and women read aloud from what look like laminated printouts from the beloved multivolume book. They muse over certain passages and share echoes with their daily lives: the enduring memory of a late husband’s smile, or a hospital visit where madeleines were on the menu. One man keeps explaining that his daughter is named Albertine, like the key character in the book who is the narrator’s romantic obsession.
The film, perhaps like a certain writer, seeks out the nexus between the quotidian and the transcendent in the group’s activity, book ended by poetic montages and liberal use of Debussy’s “Syrinx.” There’s some poignancy and amusement in how the experiences of time and love transpire in the novel and in the readers’ lives. (The movie 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 live up to the promise of its premise. Believe it or not, there’s already stiff competition: a similar documentary from 2013, “The Joycean Society,” tackles “Finnegans Wake” in just under an hour.
Le Temps Perdu
Not rated. In Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. In theaters.