Monday, June 13, 2005

Rented Rendez-Vous over the weekend, since I adore André Téchiné and Juliette Binoche. Seems to be her first starring role, and the film won him Best Director at Cannes in 1985.

The story is a bit melodramatic, but Téchiné's elegant direction keeps it from seeming so. The story is a sort of companion piece to / meditation on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which pretty much justifies the fervid story. Some of the characters are actors, and in the film's backstory, some of them (including one young Juliet we never see because she's dead) were involved in a production of the play. Some are involved in another production near the end of the film's story. Then there's a pornographic version of the play that one of the characters performs in for a seedy Parisian nightclub. Lastly, there is an offstage love story (well, make that two, or even three, depending on how you want to count it) that draws comparisons to the famous lovers. (And I just realized the neat serendipity of a Juliette playing a Juliet.) Sounds complex, but 80 minutes is plenty of time to unpack it all.

As in many of Téchiné's films of the last decade (My Favorite Season, 1993, through Strayed, 2003), Rendez-Vous is strongly interested in a sexuality that's out of balance, or askew, or extreme. Here, Nina enters as a liberated free spirit, making it known she sleeps around and enjoys it but refusing to sleep with the first nice guy to come along, Paulot, who clearly seems like the type who could use a litle liberation and whose agitation becomes the counterpoint to Nina's story. (It's also too bad because Wadeck Stanczak is quite handsome.) While she is pursued by nice guy-going-bad Paulot, she is also being aggressively pursued by self-destructing bad boy Quentin (Lambert Wilson, lately of Pas Sur La Bouche and the Matrix films). The sexuality is fairly raw (is there an inch of Binoche we don't see? no male frontal, though--so French), but not particularly erotic. A lot of advances that are rebuffed. The biggest problem I had with the story is that the good-boy / bad-boy / bad-girl triangle story is rather old news. The love triangle is complicated by the character of Scrutzler, a sort of father figure (parallel to the Friar from R&J?) who connects the plot to its backstory, but he's not developed enough to be of independent interest. (I notice he's played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, who played the dead painter everyone mourns in Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train.) The whole thing strikes me, with the advantage of having seen the later work first, as an exercise, as Téchiné still building up his skills.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

Speaking of French Film, I read that there's a new sequel to L'Auberge Espagnole entitled Les Poupées Russes (The Russian Dolls), starring most of the original cast including the busy Audrey Tautou (soon to be seen in the surprisingly international cast of The Da Vinci Code).

Song: "Put It Out For Good" by Amy Ray (scroll to bottom)



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