Anne-Marie leaves Alex. Unlike him, who would like to lead a real married life, she wants to protect her freedom. They split up without any problems and continue to see one another. However...
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Anne-Marie leaves Alex. Unlike him, who would like to lead a real married life, she wants to protect her freedom. They split up without any problems and continue to see one another. However, when Anne-Marie finds out that Alex has a new woman, she is madly jealous. She plunges into a troubling world that is full of signals and threats.Written by
Venice Film Festival
Jealous obsession in a beautiful, ice-cold landscape
Though well received in Venice and praised upon its theatrical release in Paris, this was the FSLC 2009 Rendez-Vous series' "most problematic movie," according to the NYTimes' Stephen Holden. He describes it as "a a portrait of female jealousy run amok in which Dominique Blanc plays a toxic control freak with Bette Davis eyes." May we guess why Holden calls this "problematic"? Surely just because this transcendently self-absorbed character strains the patience to the breaking point well before the film's 97 minutes are up.
It's a film that's gorgeous to look at, and a star turn Dominique Blanc might have found impossible to pass up. The 52-year-old Blanc's a veteran who's appeared in some films seen in America: Chéreau's 'Queen Margot' and 'Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train' and Lucas Belvaux's trilogy. She plays Leo DiCaprio's Rimbaud's mother in 'Total Eclipse.' Her appearance in a Bernard/Trividic film realizes their long-time wish and hers too. Whether this was the ideal occasion is another question.
Anne-Marie, Blanc's 47-year-old character, divorced after an 18-year marriage, tells her pleasant and presentable younger black boyfriend Alex (Cyril Guei) that she wants to be independent. She values her freedom now, she says. No more marriage-like arrangements for her. She wants him to know that, not get any ideas about their moving in together. But the minute Alex gets involved with another woman and reveals he plans to move in with her, Marie-Louise goes into a tail-spin. She immediately interrogates him about the other lady. He protects her, not revealing anything at first. He and Anne-Marie still meet, though less often. He finally lets out that the new girlfriend is a teacher at the Faculty of History who did a doctoral thesis on the Chaldeans. And then he admits that she lives on a certain chic Paris street. What upsets Anne-Marie the most is that Alex's new girlfriend isn't a "girl" at all, but the same age as herself. This makes her think Alex's attraction to her was sort of generic. It wasn't just her. He just has a thing for older women.
With these bits of information Anne-Marie does Internet searches and begins calling phone numbers. She leaves obscene phone messages. But she remains only a virtual stalker, because she never really lands her prey for sure.
Anne-Marie is shown as a social worker, though rather sketchily. She has a woman confidante, and stages a reunion with an older man, Lars (Peter Bonke), who's a former lover. She takes refuge in him and seeks his help in further researching her stalking project, and then after making a wish for her rival to die realizes how selfish she's been when she finds out Lars is seriously ill and she ought to have been praying for his health instead.
Anne-Marie lives in one of the sleek but rather soulless "Nouvelles Villes" Paris suburbs depicted in several of Eric Rohmer's films, and we constantly see her training back and forth from there to the center and rambling through a glitzy mall, or hanging out in glassed-in office spaces or shadowy modernistic bars. (Only once we see an open square of the housing area that shows their bright cheery side, which we see in Rohmer's films such as 'Full Moon in Paris' and 'Boyfriends and Girlfriends'). The surroundings are cold but beautiful as photographed in rich dark shots inspired in part by Michaal Mann, according to the directors--perhaps they're thinking of Mann's Collateral's lush digital images of L.A. But when they went on to say at the IFC Center Q&A that the vision of urban emptiness was already set up by Antonioni, the leap from the great Italian to the Hollywood neo-noir guy seemed a bit facile. I wondered whether films like Wong Kar-wai's 'Fallen Angels' might have been a visual influence. Or even the Assayas of 'demonlover.' But the Bernard/Trividic insistence that dark urban landscapes must be exclusively cold and alienating seems narrow and doctrinaire, and their restricting Anne-Marie exclusively to such landscapes seems forced.
The portly, bald Bernard and Trividic, who in person are hard to tell apart, insisted that Anne-Marie isn't ever "crazy" in the film. And indeed Blanc's measured performance can be taken as bearing this out. However, her state seems more notional than real, perhaps ultimately incomprehensible. The way she repeatedly sees her own image appear in mirrors and in passing trains, smashes her "Cyberbox" home surveillance device with a hammer, and eventually does herself serious harm, all seem excellent evidence of derangement. There is a symbolic use of fluids--rain, tears, whiskey, wine--though that seems tacked on. The trouble ultimately is that in their adaptation of Annie Emaux's novel 'L'Occupation' the directors have greatly expanded the alienating external surroundings while allowing the interior of their main character--as well as her motivations--largely to go missing. One of the directors focuses on screenplay, the other on the visuals and tech aspects, they said. Maybe they ought to get together more. The beauty of the images indicates that their films may yet be worth watching; that they have a strong sense of style.
'L'Autre' opened February 4, 2009 in France to some excellent reviews. It had been nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice, where Blanc received the Volpi Best Actress award. Shown in March 2009 as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York.
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