Directorial tact and visual solidity, fine, sensitive playing and observant characterization give an engrossing tang to this familiar tale [from the novel by Paul Guimard] of a middleaged man who has left his wife and grown son for a slightly younger woman. Pic is a private tale of a man at emotional crossroads that builds interest without resort to flashy sentiments or intellectual palaver.
The titles begin with an auto accident – the film is a rethinking of the man’s dilemma, with the accident a tragic event that cuts short his attempt to find peace with himself and his choices in life and love.
Fragmentation first shows him with his mistress, played with engaging sincerity by Romy Schneider. Michel Piccoli gives a well-regulated limning of the man, a successful architect but somehow a bit ill at ease. He sees his son and promises to spend a summer with him, which angers his mistress. He goes off in a car for a business meeting and on the way decides to break with his mistress, but then changes him mind as the accident occurs.
Claude Sautet has made only two other pix, which were more concerned with lowlife characters and delving into their motives sans preaching. Here he shows a fine directorial flair for ordinary people caught up in personal decisions and dramas.