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French drama based on a script by Krzysztof Kieslowski, completed just before his death. In 1980s Paris a man, fresh from his release from prison, is rejected by his wife. After a violent confrontation he throws himself from the apartment window, an act witnessed by his three young daughters. In present day Paris the three daughters, now grown up, live their own lives. Sophie (Emmanuelle Beart), the eldest, is married with young children but suspects her husband of having an affair. The youngest, Anne (Marie Gillain), is a student involved in a messy relationship with one of her tutors. Middle sister Celine (Karin Viard) lives a solitary and joyless life, caring for their difficult mother. When a young man starts to take an interest in her, she little suspects the true motive behind his approaches.
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Three sisters suffer the same tragedy but each end up living lives of mere drama. They each have problems with men, which echoes their 'tragic' past, and each story is kept within its own dramatic box. One of the best scenes has Emmanuelle Beart listening at hotel bedroom doors until she finds one with loud lovemaking issuing from within the room.
An enjoyable, flawless film.
As they all suffer in their private hells, made worse by slight glimmers of hope, the truth about their father's prison sentence for seducing a young male student finally comes to light, leading to... well, not very much, really. Once the not very surprising cat is out of the bag, the film doesn't really know what to make of its rather underwhelming revelation. The punchline is a song title, though when it's delivered you might find yourself thinking Is That All There Is? may have been a better choice.
The presence of Emmanuelle Beart, increasingly a monument to France's collagen and silicon industries as she unwittingly turns into a Tex Avery cartoon, almost sounds a warning note: this is her second film called L'Enfer after Chabrol's misfired 1994 of an unfilmed Henri-Georges Clouzot script. It's hard not to feel that the reason both projects never saw the light of projector with their original creators was because ultimately there wasn't quite enough there to justify the effort. Certainly there's the feeling that Kieslowski's reputation has assembled a more formidable array of talent than the same material from an unknown source would have done. In some ways, the impressive cast occasionally threaten to swamp the film. While it's always a pleasure you see Jean Rochefort, his casting in a bit part adds nothing to the movie but more weight of expectation that remains unfulfilled: he really has nothing much to do. Indeed, it's significant that it's Georges Siatidis' smitten train conductor who leaves the most lasting impression in a minuscule role rather than any of the heavyweights. It's by no means a terrible film, and it certainly holds the attention en route to its anticlimax.
Still, the UK DVD presentation is excellent, with a good 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, one-hour documentary Reflections of Hell and the original trailer.
The film starts with a 30 second sequence of a young girl bursting into an adult's office unannounced to see him with a naked boy. This is followed by an amazing rich red kaleidoscopic title sequence narrating the reproductive strategy of a cuckoo. The titles are bookended by the same man being released from prison.
Then, totally unlinked to the former, and each other, are the narratives of the three central women. One suspecting her husband of adultery, the second socially withdrawn, and the youngest, a student, rejected by a professor after a fling on a field trip to the Acropolis.
So how do these scenarios tie together into a coherent whole, and inform the title of the movie? Its a tall order, that is expertly met by Tanovic. We are led through the difficulties of the women's respective lives before any connections are made. At the same time we are fed intellectual ideas about fate and chance; and parallels with tragic Greek heroes. So much energy is fed into weaving an elaborate tale, there is a tendency to lose contact with the emotional turmoil afflicting the individuals.
The film is of a high technical standard in all departments. Most of the shots and sequences are lovingly committed to celluloid. The circular tower stairway sequence is expert and memorable. A couple of hours well spent on an intelligent, visually splendid, and engaging French film.
The story unfolds through the lives of three daughters who are each different but all trying to cope with a dark past which is catching up on them.
Carole Bouquet is magnificent in her role of the bitter and emotionless mother and the daughters played with talent by Marie Gilain, young and impulsive, Karine Viard, introverted and shy and Emmanuelle Beart, superb in her portrait of a scorned wife and mother.
It is a no frills movie which depicts a dramatic story and a family destroyed by its consequences.
A great moment of French cinema.
This film gets two stars for some nice imagery and the ticket controller moments! Other than that....too little Jean Rochefort and to no effect.
The ideas of destiny v. coincidence in this film are used to explain some strange and/or downright crass behaviour.
Too many strings lead to nowhere in this movie...you hold your breath hoping something will come of ANYTHING......I've passed out!
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