Late August/Early September Review

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A Parisian literary editor fears commitment and is troubled by the failing health of a close friend.


It's an old arthouse ruse: jettison the tenets on which mainstream movies are based - 'plot', 'action' - in favour of a freeform fragmented approach designed to reflect the fragmented nature of life as opposed to the order of narrative. Unfortunately, for all the boldness of this snapshot structure and fully rounded central quartet, Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the admirably quirky Irma Vep is hamstrung by a plethora of verbal platitudes.

Having split with Jenny (Balibar), Gabriel (Amalric), a Parisian literary editor, is finding it difficult to commit to his new partner, Anne (Ledoyen), a wannabe couturier marking time by designing household fabrics. Moreover, he's troubled by the failing health and confidence of Adrien (Cluzet), an author of indeterminate ability whose refusal to compromise makes him as fascinating a friend as he is unfulfilled as an artist. Over the course of a year, Adrien's recurrent illness precipitates a series of emotional and intellectual shifts that totally realigns the group's relationship.

It sounds so riveting, so profound. But a surprising amount of the action is so much chattering class tosh - dinner parties in whitewashed country cottages, air kissing encounters at A-list bars and colour supplement exchanges on literature, love and life. But what's most regrettable is the gender stereotyping - the boys are the creative, proactive force, while the girls are merely cyphers, with Jenny clinging doggedly to a doomed romance, while Anne endures acts of sexual humiliation in order to further her career.

The dialogue is deplorably trite which makes the quality of the acting all the more remarkable and the waste of such compelling characters so unforgivable.

Assayas' attempt to present a multi-perspective Polaroid view of Adrien and his circle fall back on the tired technique of abruptly punctuating grainy, handheld sequence with jump cuts. A disappointingly sterotypical French film.