L’Appartement, 1996

A jeweler presents Max (Vincent Cassel) with three prospective rings for his upcoming marriage to Muriel (Sandrine Kiberlain): the first is elegant, yet understated; the second is intensely beautiful, but dangerously sharp and cutting; the third is seemingly ordinary, but has an inner glow and luster beneath the surface. Unable to choose among them (and harboring second thoughts over his engagement), Max defers his decision until after his business trip to Japan. During a brief stop at a local bar to meet the Japanese client, Max overhears a familiar voice at a telephone booth suggest that her lover, Daniel (Olivier Granier), had committed a murder for her. Max believes that it is the voice of his lost love, Lisa (Monica Bellucci), who, at a turning point in their relationship, inexplicably disappeared without a trace. Still bearing the scars of their unresolved relationship, Max decides to surreptitiously postpone his trip in order to search for her, enlisting the aid of his old friend, a shoe store owner named Lucien (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey). Using an abandoned hotel key as his sole lead to the elusive Lisa, Max begins to piece together the circumstances behind the suspicious death of Daniel’s wife. Ultimately, Max’s investigation leads him to an apartment, where he decides to wait for Lisa to return. Later in the evening, a distraught young woman enters the apartment and stands by the open window, preparing to jump. Max succeeds in saving her life, but immediately realizes that this Lisa (Romane Bohringer) is not his former girlfriend. Her vulnerability touches Max, and he begins to develop an attachment towards her. But as the memory of the first Lisa continues to haunt him, will he abandon his new relationship in order to find her?

Gilles Mimouni creates an exhilarating, clever, and remarkably adept first feature film in L‘Appartement. The film pays homage to familiar Alfred Hitchock scenarios: Max follows Daniel through town and observes him enter a flower shop (as in Vertigo); a neighbor voyeuristically watches Lisa from an apartment across the street (as in Rear Window); Max attempts to retrieve Lisa’s house key from under a storm grating (as in Strangers on a Train). However, by using recurrent patterns and duality, Mimouni also infuses originality and a distinctive style into the formula of a suspense film: interconnected peripheral events; mirrored obsession; physical and visual doppelgangers. In the end, Max faces a dilemma that has far greater consequence than the mere selection of a ring, and in the process, learns an unforgettable lesson in superficiality and indecision.

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