Marie-Jo Et Ses Deux Amours

**1/2

Reviewed by: Andrea Mullaney

Leslie Halliwell, the great film guide compiler, once wrote that Brief Encounter could never have been a French movie because the couple would never have been put off consummating their love. That thought comes to mind when watching this very, very French film about adultery, which is rather more explicit and yet still, actually, shares some of the romantic idealism of the British classic.

Like Celia Johnson's Laura, Marie-Jo is an ordinary woman, living in modern Marseilles. Married to a loving, if unsensational, man, mother to a teenage daughter, driver for a succession of hospital outpatients, she should be happy, or at least content, but she isn't.

Something drives her to an affair with a ferry captain, who wants to possess all of her, even asking to hear the details of what she does when she leaves his arms. She drives home, she tells him, opens the gate, unloads the shopping and then her husband comes and kisses her...

This isn't a guilt-ridden affair. The only part of it that Marie-Jo feels bad about is not sharing her joy in the new romance with her husband, because she loves him too, you see, and it seems wrong to leave him out.

The direction, by Robert Gu├ędiguian, is flat, as pedestrian as the story the film tells, a story that you could hear on every street, or workplace. It is a realism that takes in, not just the sordid deceit of the affair and the bland, concrete houses of the town, but the dazzling blue sea of the nearby Mediterranean and flashes of something just out of reach.

There are some fine performances, particularly from Jean-Pierre Darroussin, as the cuckolded husband, whose dignified restraint hardly hides his utter desolation. Ariane Ascaride, as Marie-Jo, is brave beyond Hollywood's imagination in her portrayal of middle-aged sexuality that is neither ridiculous nor airbrushed, simply natural. And yes, there is plenty of unselfconscious, casual nudity that you just wouldn't find in a British, or American film.

Two hours of Marie-Jo vacillating between the two suffering men over-stresses the basic point that she truly loves both; her story is too slight for such extravagance.

It might have added more depth to explore the idea that, despite what she claims, in fact, she loves neither. A restless, frustrated soul, she observes at one point, "I only feel at peace when I make love," while hinting that she dreams of suicide.

The film takes Marie-Jo's insistence that her love is doubled, not halved, at face value and her doubts and anguish begin to look like selfishness, as the menage-a-trois drags everyone, including her outraged daughter, into misery.

Then, in the final minutes, there's an ending of stupendous stupidity. Perhaps, in a less doggedly realistic film, what happens might work perfectly well, but here it is simply unbelievable, corny and melodramatic. By betraying the ordinariness of what has gone before, it leaves you feeling cheated.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2003
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Marie-Jo Et Ses Deux Amours packshot
Marseilles mother and wife embarks upon an afffair with a ferry captain.
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Director: Robert Guediguian

Writer: Robert Guediguian, Jean-Louis Milesi

Starring: Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Gerard Meylan, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Jacques Boudet

Year: 2002

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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