Directed by François Ozon
Written by François Ozon, Emmanuèle Bernheim
Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Philippe Dugay
Starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stéphane Freiss, Françoise Fabian, Michael Lonsdale, Géraldine Pailhas, Antoine Chappey, Marc Ruchmann, Jason Tavassoli, Yannis Belkacem
In counter-chronology, a quintet of momentous episodes scratch the surface of a failed marriage’s bitter divorce, advoutry confessed and concealed, triste parturition, rapturous wedding and its racy reception, and transitional inception at a waterside Italian resort.
As usual, Ozon’s superficiality is betrayed by his lascivious emphases, but his tendentious portrayal of this movie’s two-dimensional characters and their respective turpitudes is especially galling. In the most blatantly partial example, a longsuffering wife (Bruni-Tedeschi) quietly endures chagrin while her husband (Freiss) narrates his participation in an orgy to his brother (Chappey) and his boyfriend (Ruchmann); on their wedding night, her fling with a handsome American (Tavassoli) is treated as an erotically condonable caprice. Ozon weirdly, habitually abstracts to denigrate heterosexuality, but his worst misdeed here is to peddle nullity as arcana. Discordant from the tenderness with which he treats his son and wife, Freiss’s cullion is elsewise unaccountably desperate, abusive, petty, remiss, and craven in contrived contradistinction to his better half. No causation can be clearly charged to his quasi-rape contiguous to the finalization of their divorce, anguished absence during his son’s birth, or wanton harassment of his wife. His demonization of straight men demonstrates this filmmaker’s inability to concoct substance behind semblance of obscenity, much less dredge insights therein. By the pen and lens of a Rohmer, Aurel, Blier or Téchiné, such a quintipartite narrative would yield fruit of a sort that he hasn’t the depth or humanity to pick.
None of the reprehension above pertains to Ozon’s perfectly professional direction, whereby his handsome cast is framed in potent foci that don’t detract from palpable ambiences in ordinary and idyllic settings. That doltish gimmickry that impairs his sequent efforts was years forthcoming, as were innumerable posts to fora by fans who agonize to extenuate or rationalize it.
As for other movies by Ozon and Olivier Assayas, Yorick Le Saux here works his verve for high contrast abounding in pitch blacks, and coordination of cool and brilliant colors.
Her contributions are smoothly unnoticeable until Monica Coleman’s abrupt cuts powerfully, proximately communicate intervallic omissions.
Not one false note vitiates rigorous performances by Bruni-Tedeschi, Freiss and most of their co-stars, who commit to their parts with a subtle mimesis that indues verisimility even to Ozon’s weakest codswallop. Coarsely compulsive Fabian and Lonsdale are almost wasted playing the spatting parents of Bruni-Tedeschi’s wife and mother. Tavassoli’s painfully stiff delivery is the sole exception to this concerted merit.
Like the aforementioned acting, two moving, lushly orchestrated themes courtesy of Philippe Rombi are too good for this picture, as are other musical selections by Paolo Conte, Bobby Solo, Wilma Goich, Luigi Tenco, Nico Fidenco and Gino Paoli that predominate on its soundrack.
Nicely registered reactions between lines may be the best reason to view this. A beautifully conclusive wide shot of the Mediterranean offing from a Sardinian strand fades to black upon sundown, patefying how this Parisian shoots with a grace that he can’t write.
Aside from Ozon’s cheap characterizations and vacuous foundation, both Chappey’s and Ruchmann’s, and Lonsdale’s and Fabian’s pairs are more intriguing than the protagonistic spouses.
This is what Téchiné, Pialat, Breillat, or the Dardenne brothers would’ve produced were they as shallow as Michael Bay. Ozon wears his influences on his sleeve, but his well-crafted ersatz is immediately discernable from a complete story about complete people.
Instead, watch We Won’t Grow Old Together.