Chance or Coincidence

Director: Claude Lelouch

He may not be a favourite of the critics, and he has his share of failures since the breakthrough that was A Man and a Woman in 1966, but Claude Lelouch manages to continue producing his own unique brand of cinema. He surprised a lot of people with his imaginative treatment of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables a couple of years ago. Now, with Chance or Coincidence, his thirty-seventh film, he has made what might well qualify as the ultimate Lelouch cinema experience. All the elements are here: spectacular visuals, exotic locations from around the globe, a tragic story of love and loss, and philosophical musings on weighty subjects such as fate, love, death, grief, and truth. Somehow, Lelouch pulls off the trick of turning such a contrived scenario into a movie whose delights far outweigh its irritations.
Within the first couple of scenes, the film has switched from a mock documentary about polar bears to the auction rooms of New York, where art dealer Pierre (Pierre Arditi) sells paintings by Soutine before relocating to the canals of Venice to paint his own forgeries. In Venice, Pierre meets Myriam (Alessandra Martines), a dancer with an eight-year-old son, Serge. An affair blossoms, and Pierre celebrates his happiness by bringing his partner and her son on a trip that’s to take in the polar bears of Canada, the ‘death’ divers of Acapulco, the swirling dervishes of Turkey, and much else besides. Tragedy strikes when Pierre and Serge are drowned in a boating accident. A distraught Myriam decides to travel on alone, recording with a video camera the places and people that meant so much ot her loved ones.
Myriam’s quest is at the heart of the film. Typically, though, Lelouch complicates matters by adding another character, Marc (Marc Deschamps), who is fascinated by Myriam’s case when he sees her videos and decides to follow her movements. Like Lelouch himself, his characters are enthralled by images, and the film develops into an exploration of image and reality, lies and truth. It’s a playful and touching work, in which Lelouch delights in exploiting the cinema’s capacity to move and astonish us with its tricks and illusions.

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