(director: Alain Resnais; screenwriters: Alex Réval/Laurent Herbiet/based on the novel “L’Incident” by Christian Gailly; cinematographer: Eric Gautier; editor: Hervé de Luze; music: Mark Snow; cast: Sabine Azéma (Marguerite Muir), André Dussollier (Georges Palet), Anne Consigny (Suzanne), Emmanuelle Devos (Josépha), Mathieu Amalric (Bernard de Bordeaux, desk policeman), Michel Vuillermoz (Lucien d’Orange), Edouard Baer (narrator); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Jean-Louis Livi; Sony Pictures classics; 2009-France-in English and French with English subtitles)

“A confounding psychodrama that made me laugh in the scenes that were meant to be serious and remain mute in the scenes that were meant to be amusing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Venerable 88-year-old French filmmaker Alain Resnais (“Providence”/”Muriel”/”Same Old Song”)throws together a confounding psychodrama that made me laugh in the scenes that were meant to be serious and remain mute in the scenes that were meant to be amusing.Though I imagine Resnais’s most devoted fans would disagree with this assessment and welcome this pic as another of the master filmmaker’s enigmatic well-crafted masterpieces even if it drowns itself in whimsy, presents an unbelievable relationship that is even too much for a movie romance and becomes superficial as a second-rate sexual farce. It’s Resnais’s odd homage to the magic of romance in the movies. The director tells of the film’s male protagonist attending a showing of the oldie American film on heroic Korean War flyers The Bridge at Toko-Ri (1954) and afterwards meeting for the first time the woman he fell blindly in love with, and after seeing the film is now hopeful his chaste relationship with the heroine is possible. It’s co-written byAlex Réval and Laurent Herbiet, and is loosely based on the surreal novel “L’Incident” by Christian Gailly.

The insufferable character study and weak comedy, impressed those who give prizes at Cannes and was nominated for a Golden Palm in in 2009 at Cannes. Whatever those folks saw, I obviously didn’t. I felt largely put-off by a romantic story that seemed cutesie without the usual rewards for viewing something so frothy.

The unseen all-knowing narrator (Edouard Baer) leads the viewer through this adult fairy tale story.

Middle-aged, wealthy, dandy, auburn-red frizz haired dentist Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azéma), a weekend aviatrix of a vintage Spitfire and the director’s muse, is mugged in the street while shopping for shoes and her stolen red wallet is returned to the police station by Georges Palet (André Dussollier, the 65-year-old actor). The 50-year-old Georges, a Walter Mitty like character, lives like a deranged king in his spacious suburban château with his beautiful and tolerant much younger wife of thirty years, Suzanne (Anne Consigny), who seems to have no problem with hubby’s flights of fancy or sexual dalliances or unexplained criminal past. Both Georges and Marguerite are piqued with curiosityabout each other, and after a rough start navigating the polite social protocols of meeting each other they find a strange way to meet and begin a puzzling l’amour fou that ends in tragedy–not unlike the one in The Bridge at Toko-Ri.

The visually pleasing and well-detailed movie plays out as an inside joke that misfires because it’s so artificial and so unfunny (bogged down with plenty of irrelevant movie and literary referrals, and Freudian puns). It did not provide me with enough pain killers (pleasurable scenes) to ease the pain of sitting through such a misguided exercise in filmmaking.

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