5 X 2(director/writer: François Ozon; screenwriters: Emmanuele Bernheim/from the story Mr. Ozon; cinematographer: Yorick Le Saux; editor: Monica Coleman; music: Philippe Rombi; cast: Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (Marion Ferron), Stéphane Freiss (Gilles Ferron), Françoise Fabian (Monique Chabart), Michael Lonsdale (Bernard Chabart), Antoine Chappey (Christophe), Marc Ruchmann (Mathieu), Jason Tavassoli (American Man), Géraldine Pailhas (Valérie); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Olivier Delbosc/Marc Missonnier; ThinkFilm; 2004-France-in French with English subtitles)
“It ends where the story begins at an Italian seaside resort as the couple happily swim off together into the sunset at their first encounter.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
François Ozon’s (“Swimming Pool”/”8 Femmes”) intensely drawn realistic marriage drama tells of a handsome French couple, Gilles and Marion Ferron (Stéphane Freiss & Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), whose failed marriage is chronicled in reverse chronology through five episodes, starting with the finalization of the couple’s divorce in a lawyer’s chamber and it ends where the story begins at an Italian seaside resort as the couple happily swim off together into the sunset at their first encounter. The obscure numbered title refers to five pivotal moments in the couple’s doomed relationship, framed like snapshots of their marriage in both good and bad times, and the two in the title refers to Marion and Gilles.
The film begins its five equally lengthy flashbacks with the now divorced couple going to a hotel room for one last fling, which turns out less than tender and results in Gilles forcing himself on Marion who changed her mind while in bed. It turns to a gentler domestic scene a few years earlier, when a frantic Marion returns from work and is pleased to find Gilles feeding their child Nicolas. She changes into a sexy black dress to entertain at a dinner party for Gilles’ middle-aged gay brother Christophe and his much younger Latin lover Mathieu. The talk turns to trust in a relationship and that the gay couple state it’s ok to be unfaithful if one is honest about it. After Gilles confesses to his one time being unfaithful, he voices disapproval to Marion that his brother is being jerked around by the unfaithful younger lover. At an earlier date Marion gives birth prematurely to a son due to complications, and for inexplicable reasons Gilles doesn’t visit her in her room to be of comfort while she’s in pain and shows an antagonistic attitude to his in-laws he meets in the hospital (who stay married even though they are always verbally sparring). Then it moves again backwards to the joyous wedding ceremony, but on their wedding night a tired Giles conks out while a sexually unsatisfied Marion wanders alone on the hotel grounds where she encounters an American stranger who takes the place of the groom on his big night. It concludes with Gilles and his longtime girlfriend Valérie (Géraldine Pailhas) staying on vacation at the Italian Hotel Calpso; it’s there that Gilles meets the single Marion, someone who has done publicity work for his firm, who is alone because a girlfriend cancelled. It ironically ends with a happy beginning that gives us the happy ending for a love story the audience most wants to see, even though it’s certainly not a happy love story.
What Ozon has managed to do very well is strip off the superficial veneer of the couple’s attraction for each other and confront their darker sides that made them disconnect and the marriage fall apart. All the blame might very well be in Gilles’ head wondering if the baby is his, or it might be laid at the feet of Marion who let someone make love to her on her wedding night. In any case, whatever the reasons for the trust and love going out of their marriage, their failure is not unlike so many of the other marriages that fail in today’s hectic modern world. The problem is that even though their tale is somewhat familiar, of ordinary folks we might have seen a resemblance to in our own circle of friends, we nevertheless never really got close to them and don’t ever know why they fell in love (other than lust), how their marriage progressed (other than it seemed bumpy), or even why they split (only slight hints). Even though studied under a microscope, their marriage seems as unknown as any foreign specimen. Ozon has mentioned that this is his answer to Bergman’s Scenes From A Marriage, but he seems even more misanthropic than the downbeat Bergman’s take on marriage. You get the idea that Ozon is not bullish on the prospects of heterosexual marriages.
REVIEWED ON 2/4/2006 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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