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PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES

Director: ALAIN RESNAIS

FRANCE-ITALY • 2006 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 125 MIN


A SUBLIMELY CINEMATIC ADAPTATION OF AN ALAN AYCKBOURN PLAY BY FRENCH DIRECTOR ALAIN RESNAIS.
‘Same again, sir?’ So says hotel bartender Lionel (Pierre Arditi) to ex-army officer Dan (Lambert Wilson) who is engaged to Nicole (Laura Morante) but seems in an emotional limbo. Nicole’s sense of limbo is more spatial, as she searches for a suitable flat but only finds living spaces that express their growing incompatibility. Her estate agent Thierry (Andre Dussollier) is secretly attracted to his demure colleague Charlotte (Sabine Azema), even more so when she lends him a video of insufferable piety which unexpectedly slides into the pornographic—to the horror of Thierry’s sister (Isabelle Carre) who is about to meet Dan on a blind date. Meanwhile, Charlotte spends her nights as carer to the bartender’s cantankerous father, who, off-screen, bellows out a lifetime’s discontents. Same again? On the contrary, Alain Resnais never ceases to surprise. His second adaptation of an Alan Ayckbourn play following the superb Smoking/No Smoking(1993), this new film is a delicate daisy-chain of desire and disappointment, perfectly performed, immaculately composed, and often very funny. I was reminded of John Huston’s The Dead(1987), another octogenarian’s masterpiece in which the snows of memory and mortality, fear and failure fall on each character alike and yet where, paradoxically, the resulting film is the warmest these sometimes cerebral directors has ever made. A shot towards the end here of two snow-covered clasped hands in a kitchen—an image that is at once unreal yet tender and magical—is one of the great visual epiphanies of modern cinema. —Neil Sinyard.

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