André Téchiné, probably the last classicist of French cinema, was pushing 70 when he made this character study that promises more than it delivers. That's especially so in the first half which toys with the menacing pattern of a deconstructed genre pic like Téchiné's own SCENE OF THE CRIME/’86. Alas, his interests here lie elsewhere in a story populated with unforgivably self-centered jerks we don’t feel nearly as generous toward as we're asked to. André Dussollier plays a popular crime novelist who moves to Venice for his work and unexpectedly finds himself marrying real estate agent Carole Bouquet, almost on sight. But when his absurdly selfish, puffy-lipped daughter goes AWOL on a visit, heartlessly leaving a husband & kid in the lurch, he hires his new wife’s ex-lover to investigate; and then secretly hires the investigator’s son (fresh out of prison) to follow his wife. Well, Bouquet is acting mysteriously. Could she be involved in the disappearance? Having an affair? More likely, they’re all just acting like shits for no discernible reason. Téchiné orchestrates the multiple storylines, and sexual attractions (straight, gay & bi-curious), with typical elegance, aplomb & economy (who else jumps two steps ahead so seamlessly, without wrecking the narrative line?), but once you realize that there’s no mystery or conspiracy going on, no genre thriller aspects to the thing, it all starts to feel pointless; a series of Eurotrash pas de deux relationship dances going nowhere. NOTE: There’s a frighteningly believable act of animal cruelty in here, a strange & violent reaction by a gang of gay street toughs, as unnecessary as it is unbelievable . . . even impardonnable. Whatever was Téchiné thinking?
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Sounds odd, but in profile, Carole Bouquet is an absolute ringer for Julie Andrews. Now, imagine Luis Buñuel casting Mary Poppins instead of Bouquet in THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE/’77. What a delicious idea!
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The gay-themed drama WILD REEDS/’94 is generally considered Téchiné’s masterpiece, but almost anything of his with Catherine Denueve (SCENE OF THE CRIME; MY FAVORITE SEASON/’93 or the recent GIRL ON THE TRAIN/’09, not seen here) would be a better place to start.