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Director: François Ozon's

France| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 90 min.


After the sombre Under the Sand, the frothy 8 Women and the beautifully ephemeral Swimming Pool, this is director François Ozon’s most ambitious film to date. Some may be alienated by its challenging use of cinematic conventions, but behind this abstract surface lies an emotional intelligence that forces us to constantly reassess the power dynamics of the ill-fated central relationship. Indeed, we know the marriage between the beautiful, forceful Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and the distant yet vulnerable Gilles (Stephane Freiss) is doomed from the outset, because the opening scene depicts the cold, legal dissolving of their marriage. The story then unfolds in reverse, showing us interludes from their life together which never quite explain how it all came to such a sorry end.
Most audaciously, each of the film’s five segments employs its own distinctive cinematic style. The sequence in the divorce lawyer’s office has the painful psychological intensity of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage; the scene in which Marion gives birth to a premature baby has the self-conscious seriousness of a ‘classic’ French art film; the archetypal wedding scene might have been lifted from a frothy American romantic comedy; their first meeting recalls Eric Rohmer’s seaside comedy of manners Conte d’ete (A Summer’s Tale); a romantic sunset swim references every ‘holiday romance’ cliche. And each segment is punctuated by an ironically sentimental Italian love song.
We, the audience, must construct the meaning from these stylised snap-shots, filling in the gaps by drawing upon our own experience. We must also draw our own conclusions about how and why the couple’s relationship unravelled. Conclusions which are likely to provoke to some lively male-female arguments after the lights come up.

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