Nénette

After three husbands and four kids, forty-year-old Nénette is settling into retirement quietly, spending much of her time staring out the window. On the other side of the glass, zookeepers and visitors regularly observe and comment on her appearance and behavior. They watch her, she watches them, while the camera remains trained on her enclosure. A gentle redhead with black fingernails, saggy breasts, and soulful eyes, Nénette is an orangutan who has resided at the Jardin des Plantes Zoo in Paris since 1972. But documentarian Nicolas Philibert isn't interested in anthropomorphizing his hairy subject. In the unadorned cinema vérité style of his previous films, such as the masterful To Be and to Have (2002), Philibert remains intent on simply observing and listening to Nénette and the microcosmic world on either side of her viewing window. For a brief moment, the reflection of some inquisitive child visitors can be seen in the glass, but for the most part it is just Nénette, and every so often her roommate and son Tübo, who occupy the frame. Visitors comment in various languages on her size, her hair, the amount of space she occupies. They wonder aloud if she misses her Borneo homeland and what she might be thinking. Is she sad? Lonely? Bored? Two of her keepers, one of whom has been with her for thirty-five years, provide gentle off-screen insights into her life, her history, her personality, and their personal bonds with the inscrutable primate. Ultimately, you will forge your own connection with Nénette and may start to wonder who is really observing whom.

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