COUNTRY:             FRANCE 1998
MUSIC:                   Various. Well chosen material.
CAST:                     Elodie Bouchez (Isabel), Natacha Regnier (Marie), Gregoire Colin, Jo Prestia, Patrick Mercado
SUPER FEATURES: The riveting, and astounding pair of leads. Acting will, rarely, get better. Career roles for the two ladies.

(Seen at the 22nd Portland International Film Festival, in Portland, Oregon)

Liking this film may be hard. But there is one thing that is astounding in it and exceptional that is hard to dismiss. If the script did not have it,
at least the two women about whom this film's story is centered is too well written and developed to make this film not liked, or not enjoyed.

It is not a difficult story to tell. Isa and Marie meet at a dead end job and they strike up a friendship, and Isa ends up sharing the place that
Marie is house sitting for a period of time. As much as they seem to become friends, there are way too many differences between them, and no sooner do they begin living under the same roof that things begin to take off.

Like many French films, this one is also extremely dependant on the dialogue. The old saying that French pictures are too talky is still true
here, but in this case, it is hard to do without it, and little in the dialogue between the two women seems to be wasted. The chemistry, when
things start to go wrong is fiery and so explosive that we may get exasperated wondering how is this all going to end.

For reasons that are not really clear, but just happen, Isa begins getting interested in the people that lived in the apartment, the mother having died and the daughter in a coma. Isa's curiosity finds many things that come to interest her, specially the diary of the girl. Isa decides to visit the girl in the hospital, and eventually the film gives us the indication that it was Isa's care and interest that helped the girl in a coma improve.

While this is happening, Marie is entering into a very abusive relationship that is not helping things. She is becoming hopelessly in love with a guy that she knows does not care about him, but he is learning to enjoy herself with him, and this may be the one thing that will break her inner anger and loosen her satisfaction. Her happiest moments are towards the end of the film, when she has her high hopes and it appears that things are improving. But her choice of a man, is a bad one, and it leads to a very sad end. Amidst the two ladies, is a pair of bikers, one of which comes to like Marie, but unfortunately she is pretty indifferent to him, and eventually he sadly has to let her go. They work as bouncers and tour with a band, the distance of which is rather difficult for Marie. Isa, maintains her independence, and never gives in to a relationship, with the exception of her curiosity and attention to the girl in a coma. If Isa's inner need is one of sharing affection and giving it away, Marie's is the needy one who must have the affection that she needs to tame her indomitable spirit.

And the film allows the two ladies to really tear up the screen with some amazing acting fireworks. Marie has a temper. But Isa, will not back down at all, and she maintains her own sense of self and independence. Strength, even if she can not define it, is not something that she lacks. But she at least has enough sense not to get involved in a relationship that has sex in it, probably because she is guarding her own emotional state. Her appearance is not clear, but we have the sense that she just came off a relationship that left her guarded and protective of her space.

The largest merit in this film is without a doubt the interplay between the two ladies, who make the film move forward. It's the redeeming factor in this film. Acting does not come any better than this, and the way that things are shot around them is actually pretty well done, considering that fiery acting work not done at a distance is not always advisable. In this film, the directorial choice to go ahead and stay near them, is a magnificent add on to the two characterizations that these women develop.

Probably the downside of the film is its rather downtrodden ending, suggesting that Marie and Isa are not the only two women that are alone and unsatisfied in this world. The panning camera looking at other faces immediately seems to suggest that any one of these could be another Marie, or Isa. This, in of itself, is more than likely a statement about what the country is making of people as workers than womanhood itself, but it really is a sad end, compounding a sad end already.

3.5 of 5 GIBLOONS




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