Petites Coupures

*1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Less than half way through this opaque French comedy drama, you are so in need of help you contemplate whether fresh air, or a stiff whisky, would clear the head. Daniel Auteuil is a Communist, who is having a fling with the girl (Ludivine Sagnier) he asked to hand out leaflets for him. His wife (Pascale Bussieres) is floating about, but no longer attached. He talks in dark rooms with men about things that make no sense and is asked to deliver a letter to someone who lives in the country.

The girl is in a rage because she has overheard him saying that his involvement with her is no big deal. She rushes off with the first long-haired motorcyclist who looks like he knows how to roll a joint. Later, they crash and she ends up in hospital. Auteuil, meanwhile, is doing his messenger boy stint and meets the wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) of the recipient, a sick old man surrounded by oxygen bottles. Scott Thomas is the old guy's stepdaughter. She's fascinating in the way that crazy people can be, intentionally alluring and deliberately unavailable. Auteuil, whose only clear thoughts in this movie come from inside his trousers, falls madly, as you do, walking through a wood with her as dawn comes up, closing in for the clinch.

But wait! Is she suggesting that he kills her husband, with the veiled promise of gourmet sex and a future as rosy pink as Liberace's sock drawer? He's picking up these vibes and - oops! hang on! - why's he leaning over the sick old man's bed in the middle of the night? So many questions, so few answers. Why's he driving around in a chauffer-driven limo, with a secretary in the back seat? Why's he snogging the secretary? What is it about this man and women?

Later, after reading the synopsis, you learn that he's a journalist and the man who gave him the letter is his uncle, the mayor of a small town in Grenoble. This comes as a shock. There are too many scenes of men gabbling incoherently and not doing anything. Most of it happens at night, which means that when people talk of film noir, they're talking about this, because it's difficult to see what's going on. Perhaps nothing is going on.

Scott Thomas, who has become unfairly typecast as an English upper-class ice queen, has transformed herself into a svelte Gallic beauty. To call her mesmerising would underestimate the effect she has on fortysomething males on the cusp of a mid-life crisis.

The task writer/director Pascal Bonitzer sets himself is what to do with the first half of the film, before Scott Thomas appears. He fails.

Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2003
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Muddled romantic liaisons for Communist journalist in Paris and the depths of the country.
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Director: Pascal Bonitzer

Writer: Pascal Bonitzer

Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jean Yanne, Hanns Zischler, Pascale Bussieres, Ludivine Sagnier

Year: 2003

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France/UK

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