Title: UNFORGIVABLE (Impardonnables)
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten
Director: André Téchiné
Writers: André Téchiné, Mehdi Ben Attia, from Philippe Djian’s novel
Cast: André Dussolier, Carole Bouquet, Mauro Conte, Adriana Asti, Mélanie Thierry, Andrea Pergolesi
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 6/12/12
Opens: June 29, 2012
You don’t need a degree in psychology or history to realize that the past is always with us. You can’t escape its impact. Its memory will leave with feeling of guilt but also haunting regressions of past loves: familial, platonic and romantic. If you’re a filmmaker, whether in the seat of the director or the writer, you need the skill to bring an audience along for the ride, which in the case of “Unforgiveable” involves the passage of years, even decades. That’s where André Téchiné comes into the picture, so to speak. Téchiné, considered by some to be France’s greatest living director, is remembered by film buffs for telling complex stories in exotic or provincial settings, honing in on the travails of youth as in “Wild Reeds,” linking two eighteen-year-old friends, the brother of one who marries to escape the war in Algeria, and a bond between one young man and a classmate who wants to marry his brother’s wife.
Six people of assorted ages and sexual proclivities are likewise linked in “Unforgivable,” which stars the versatile Carole Bouquet, fluent in French, Italian and English and who has appeared in such diverse films as “For Your Eyes Only” as a Bond girl and the Luis Buñuel’s surrealist “That Obscure Object of Desire,” made thirty-one years ago. Still a knockout at fifty-four, Bouquet inhabits the role of Judith, a French ex-pate and real estate agent in Venice who is contacted by Francis (André Dussolier), a best-selling author looking to rent a place on the nearby island of Sant’ Erasmo. In a bold move, he offers to sign immediately if she will move in with him. She’s astounded, “you don’t even know me,” but a year or so later the two are married.
In portraying people in this character-driven drama, Téchiné, using a screenplay he co-wrote with Mehdi Ban Attia from a Prix Jean Freustié-winning novel by Philippe Djian, provides enough twists to satisfy fans of Alfred Hitchcock. The trajectory elicits the bi-sexual real estate agent’s long-ago affair with former private investigator Anna Maria (Adriana Asti), the violent Jérémie (Mauro Conte) who is Anna Maria’s son, Alice (Mélanie Thierry) in the role of the author’s runaway daughter, and Alvise (Andrea Pergolesi), who is Alice’s boyfriend and who might be involved in the drug trade.
We in the audience are kept on our toes, wondering about the seemingly irrational explosions of violence as between the writer and Anna Maria’s jailbird son, and between Jérémie and a gay man who clumsily attempts to seduce him. We are surprised not only that a woman as independent-minded as Judith would even consider marriage to a man who looks twenty years older than she (in reality she is fifty-four to his sixty-six) and that conversely, a best-selling writer would be so dependent on his wife that he asks her to cancel a business trip to London and has her tailed to find out whether she is engaging in hanky-panky.
The acting all-around cannot be faulted, though Julien Hirsch’s filming in and around Venice during all four seasons appears almost desaturated. Moments of violence aside, this film is for those who revel in (or at least do not mind) the penchant of French directors to encourage lots of talk, and for those who can overlook the fact that while the characters are ultimately linked, it takes time to uncover the kinships.
Unrated. 110 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – B-
Overall – B