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October 10, 2006

Coeurs, 2006

coeurs.gifThere is an early survey of the interiors of a vacant Bercy apartment at the opening sequence of Coeurs that immediately evokes early Alain Resnais in the recurring theme of architectural memory, as the camera pans to the majestic domed ceiling of a converted building, artificially bisected by a superfluous wall constructed for the sole purpose of inflating the advertised unit as a three room apartment. However, while the introductory evocation is revealed within the seemingly mundane context of apartment hunting, the ensuing conversation between the client Nicole (Laura Morante) and her real estate agent Thierry (André Dussollier) on the impracticality of shared access to the subdivided room's lone window foreshadows the film's overarching structure as the recurring thread of shared spaces between the film's unfulfilled characters - Thierry and his hopeless romantic sister Gaëlle (Isabelle Carré), Thierry and his pious office partner Charlotte (Sabine Azéma), Nicole and her layabout fiancé Dan (Lambert Wilson), the bartender Lionel (Pierre Arditi) and his cantankerous invalid father Arthur (Claude Rich) - reveal the complexity of the interconnected relational dynamics that bind them to their loneliness, emotional stasis, and unrequited longing. Based on Private Fears in Public Places by British playwright Alan Aykbourn (whose play Intimate Exchanges also serves as the basis for Resnais' earlier film Smoking/No Smoking), Coeurs is perhaps Resnais' most satisfyingly cerebral film since Mon Oncle d'Amerique (a correlation that is further reinforced by the schematic crane shots of interior spaces that recalls the maze-like behavioral observations of Mon Oncle d'Amerique). A sublime, elegant, and reassuring convergence in the aesthetic evolution of Resnais' cinema from the experimental structures of his early films to the conscious formalism of his later work, Coeurs is a thoughtful and melancholic exposition on the interconnectedness of memory, isolation, and loneliness - the unarticulated vulnerability behind the constructed artifice - liminally revealed through the awkward formality and passing glances of near encounters and existential coincidences that map the indefinable and enigmatic trajectories of the human heart.

Posted by acquarello on Oct 10, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, New York Film Festival


A very excellent and enthusiastic review. I am particularly fond of Resnais' "evolution", perhaps much representative of the emerging/receding interests and loves of an aging filmmaker (Cassavettes comes to mind). How was the humor?

Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 3:40 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Jeremy. Resnais' sense of humor and playfulness really come through in this one. There are several running jokes throughout the film that are really hilarious, like the religious program videocassettes that Charlotte keeps lending to Thierry and the crochety Arthur's constant demands for attention. While the comedy is still burlesque, it doesn't have the irritating campiness of his last film Not on the Lips.

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 16, 2006 8:58 AM | Permalink

Interestingly, I rather enjoyed "Not the Lips", perhaps because I thought it was a delightful throwback to classic French Farce, coupled with an excellent score and marvelous interior sets [but, yeah, it's not up to par with his more "ambitious efforts". But he knows. ;)]. Glad to hear about the humor. Can't wait to see it.

Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 11:44 AM | Permalink

Okay, you got me! I must admit that any time Audrey Tautou is on screen, I'm already pre-irritated. :) I do remember that I enjoyed the film while watching it, but overall, it just seemed so slight that by the time I had gotten home after the screening, I could only remember a handful of memorable scenes (I loved the "floating" quality of Resnais' direction though). And you're right about the score, like Lambert Wilson's badly mangled, "Americanized" French song and dance number. Ouch!

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 16, 2006 12:12 PM | Permalink

Oh, she's delicious, alright (fantastic actress). I'm pretty young, but I've got a particular adoration for the man's work (as well as Duras...eh, sometimes.) Overall, sounds like it was a great festival and I can't wait to check this one out.

"And you're right about the score, like Lambert Wilson's badly mangled, "Americanized" French song and dance number. Ouch!"


Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 1:56 PM | Permalink

Ooh, burn.

But yeah, Tatou is delicious (and a fantastic actress). I can account for the slightness, so let's stick to a common ground. Btw, have you seen Providence?

Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 2:20 PM | Permalink

Whoops, I had thought my original post hadn't gone through. Ugh.

Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 2:23 PM | Permalink

I probably saw Providence about eight years ago now so the memory's quite fuzzy, but I remember a kind of sardonic humor running through the film (especially from the narrator), as well as some very odd visuals (wasn't there a werewolf-like monster?). I really should go see the film again.

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 16, 2006 2:51 PM | Permalink

"as well as some very odd visuals (wasn't there a werewolf-like monster?)"

You are correct. Very lyrical, indeed. Outstanding leads.

Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 3:29 PM | Permalink

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