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APARTMENT, THE (L’APPARTEMENT) (director/writer: Gilles Mimouni; cinematographer: Thierry Arbogast; editors: Caroline Bisgerstaff/Francoise Bonnot; music: Peter Chase; cast: Vincent Cassel (Max), Sandrine Kiberlain (Muriel), Romane Bohringer (Alice), Jean-Philippe Ecoffey (Lucien), Olivier Granier (Daniel), Monica Bellucci (Lisa); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Georges Benayoun; Lionsgate; 1996-France/Italy/Spain-in French with English subtitles)
“Enigmatic romantic thriller that follows along the lines of Hitchcock.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first feature film for writer/directorGilles Mimouni is an enigmatic romantic thriller that follows along the lines of Hitchcock, and turns out to be quite a technical accomplishment. It’s a humdinger in plot twists, is suspenseful throughout, is well-acted and cleverly executed. Think James Stewart’s stalking Kim Novak in ”Vertigo,” and you mostly got what this homage to Hitchcock is spoofing.

Max (Vincent Cassel) is a young corporate executive on the rise, who has just returned from NYC to his Paris birthplace. In NYC he fell in love on the rebound with Muriel (Sandrine Kiberlain), the boss’s sister, and is about to present her with an engagement ring.At a cafe, Max has drinks with his boss and his Japanese client and is set to fly to Tokyo on a business trip when he hears the voice of Lisa (Monica Bellucci) coming from a phone booth. She’s the beautiful actress who jilted him a few years ago and vanished. But Lisa is out the door before he can reach her, and so Max impulsively decides to search for his lost love rather than go on the business trip and elicits the help of his best friend Lucien (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey), the owner of a women’s shoe store. You know this is a French pic, because matters of romance come before business.

Through intermittent flashbacks we learn in spurts about the flighty Max’s past affair with Lisa; in the present we observe Max get elated when he thinks he locates Lisa, but she turns out to be Alice (Romane Bohringer)–the lookalike from the rear roommate of Lisa–who makes things more perplexing by not telling Max that she’s the one Lucien has fallen madly in love with and other lies. The love sick Alice now uses her vulnerability to seduce the susceptible Max, someone she never met before but always pined for. In the meantime Lisa is in a heavy affair with the rich married man Daniel (Olivier Granier), an obsessive man so taken with Lisa that he’s capable of committing murder to make sure he doesn’t lose her.

In a seamless way Mimouni weaves together the past and the present to offer us both a comical and suspenseful narrative, with many twists and a shocker ending–which is not entirely satisfying, but actually makes sense because it follows what Mimouni was shooting for.

It was weakly remade in America as Wicker Park (2004), starring a miscast Josh Hartnett.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”