Backstage. Ugo and Camille (Castellitto and Balibar) make plans for later...
dir Jacques Rivette
scr Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette
with Jeanne Balibar, Sergio Castellitto, Marianne Basler, Jacques Bonnaffe, Helene de Fougerolles, Bruno Todeschini, Catherine Rouvel, Claude Berri, Attilio Cucari, Bettina Kee, Luciana Castellucci, Emanuele Vacca
release US 5.Oct.01; UK 4.Jan.02
Yet another long, meandering, talky French film may not be your first choice for escapist entertainment. But there's some terrific stuff in this one. It's a kind of theatre piece, centring on two actors touring with an Italian play. Camille and Ugo (Balibar and Castellitto) are a couple off stage, but once their production arrives in Paris Camille looks up her ex, Pierre (Bonnaffe), and meets his new girlfriend Sonia (Basler). Meanwhile, Ugo is searching for a long-lost Italian play in the private library of siblings Arthur and Dominique (Todeschini and de Fougerolles). When Ugo begins to suspect that Camille may go back to Pierre, he starts to fall for Dominique. Meanwhile, Arthur has his eyes set on Sonia ... and maybe Camille as well.
What starts as a gentle, warm drama of relationships past and present slowly turns into a farcical theatrical comedy, right up to the wacky finale. Rivette brings everything together beautifully ... even if he makes us wait interminably to get there (the film is easily an hour too long!). Oddly, despite solid, fascinating performances, the romantic plots never amount to much--we never feel even a flicker of passion anywhere, besides Ugo's burning desire to find this apocryphal 18th century play. But it is often very funny and there are some revealing comments here and there. The humour keeps things moving, glossing over the rather aimless structure and contrived plot. Rivette just needs to find a bit of discipline in his filmmaking. Edited down to a brisk little rom-com, this could be a real gem!
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