The Captive
Drive me crazy. Simon and Ariane (Merhar and Testud) take a spin.
La Captive
dir Chantal Akerman
scr Chantal Ackerman, Erik de Kuyper
with Stanislas Merhar, Sylvie Testud, Olivia Bonamy, Francoise Bertin, Liliane Rovere, Aurore Clement, Vanessa Larre, Berenice Bejo, Anna Mouglalis, Jean Borodine, Sophie Assante
release UK 27.Apr.01
00/France 1h52
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
If another French film based on Proust worries you: stay worried! This pretentious, drifting film might look good, but it's infuriatingly impossible to crack through its serene surface to find anything even remotely worthwhile. Simon (Merhar) is a very well-dressed, privileged young man in Paris, living in a large, slightly run-down flat with his grandmother (Bertin) and his girlfriend Ariane (Testud), who lives in a separate room and visits Simon only when he allows her to. She has a best friend (Bonamy) who may or may not be her lover. And Simon is so possessive and paranoid that he follows Ariane everywhere to fuel his jealousies and suspicions. She's more like a prisoner than a girlfriend, despite their mutual protestations of profound love.

Not a single character in this film acts like a human being. Ever. They move like Disney animatronic figures, gazing from side to side and speaking without moving their faces. Apparently the characters are all independently wealthy, as no one ever goes to work. But who would hire them anyway? And who cares about their tragic love? It's all so pointless and ponderous that we couldn't care less. Sure, the film has an intriguing visual style, but for all of Ackerman's clever direction there's very little insight into much of anything. She does capture a nice little Hitchcock vibe now and then (She obviously loved Vertigo), but here it only amounts to a bunch of wooden characters wandering around in dressing gowns or trenchcoats obsessing about their sad love lives. Sporadically artful yet stupefyingly dull--there are some segments that are so beautiful and monotonous that they very nearly hypnotise us ... into a coma. Yikes.
adult themes and situations cert 15 24.Apr.01

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"I don't really resent the fact that this film's dialogue is so skimpy and the actor's delivery so flat and devoid of emotion that it is nearly impossible to figure out what the characters are thinking, or what is actually happening. 'Figure it out by yourselves,' the director might say. What I object to is that this subject of male obsession and female inscrutability has been done much better before, namely in Chabrol's L'Enfer and Cédric Kahn's L'Ennui, both of whom make for much more pleasant viewing experiences than The Captive, which shows that the latter film is needlessly austere, and that the subject matter doesn't necessarily call for such treatment." --Hugo Rodrigues, Portugal 10.Dec.02
© 2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall