Review: ‘Couples et Amants’

Also with: Bruno Todeschi, Sara Guiran, Isabelle Candelier.

Also with: Bruno Todeschi, Sara Guiran, Isabelle Candelier.

John Lvoff’s “Couples et amants” is a well-acted and competently made drama of adultery that offers little in the way of fresh ideas or compelling plot eccentricities. Commercial prospects appear dim for this unremarkable pic, despite fine performances by leads.

Isabelle (Marie Bunel), a psychoanalyst, and Paul (Jacques Bonaffee), an ophthalmologist, are attractive and successful professionals who, in the eyes of their friends, have the perfect marriage. In pic’s opening moments, however, it’s revealed that Isabelle is enjoying afternoon trysts with a temperamental writer, and suffering only the mildest pangs of guilt.

Paul is faithful only until a beautiful but neurotic young patient captures his fancy. The woman, who restores antique screens, is the one who makes the first move. But it doesn’t take long for Paul to follow.

Lvoff’s point seems to be that even someone who’s happily married might find it irresistible to have an affair with someone more troublesome, even more dangerous, than one’s “perfect” spouse. In contrast to the leads, Lvoff presents a squabbling couple on the verge of divorce. Their open hostility may be intended as some sort of ironic counterpoint, but it doesn’t work very well as such.

“Couples et amants” has more than a trace of Ingmar Bergman — specifically, “Scenes from a Marriage”– particularly when Paul turns angrily brutal after learning of Isabelle’s infidelity. But the best moments are bits of comic relief , most of them provided by Isabelle’s most surly patient, a German who finds nothing charming about France.

Bonaffee and Bunel are good within the limits of their material, even though their characters never establish a firm grip on the audience’s sympathies. Tech credits are average.

VANCOUVER

Couples et Amants

(FRENCH)

Production

A Providence Films production in association with La Sept Cinema and Canal Plus. Produced by Yves Gasser. Directed by John Lvoff. Screenplay, Pascal Bonitzer, Lvoff, Catherine Breillux.

Crew

Camera (color), Jean-Claude Larrleu; editor , Jacqueline Counor; music, Charlie Couture; sets, Therese Ripaud; sound, Christian Fontaine, Jerome Thiault. Reviewed at Sarasota French Film Festival, Sept. 14, 1993. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Isabelle ... Marie Bunel Paul ... Jacques Bonaffee
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