A meandering little comedy that blends its moods and manners as easily as it mixes French film vets with fresh-faced newcomers, Daniele Dubroux’s offbeat “Diary of a Seducer” will have an easier time luring Euro audiences to its eccentric charms than it will stateside ticket-buyers. Careful handling might spur some commercial interest, but pic’s quirky nature will seduce ew, if any, U.S. distribs.
As a scripter, Dubroux has passion on her mind — more specifically, the power of passion to abruptly and irrevocably alter life’s course. The film, though, is less an exercise in than an intellectual vivisection of infatuation, with Dubroux’s muted direction and the cast’s understated performances lending an arch, even caustic tone to the sometimes farcial goings-on.
At least during the first half, “Seducer” assumes the brooding tone of main character Claire (Chiara Mastroianni), a bored 20-year-old Parisian student sleepwalking through life. Her gloom lifts when she meets and falls for Gregoire (Melvin Poupaud), a handsome, intellectual philosophy student who promptly lends Claire a rare and mysterious translation of Kierkegaard’s “Le Journal d’un seducteur.”
The film takes a darkly whimsical turn as the book, apparently possessing a strange aphrodisiac power, captivates Claire — and anyone else who reads it, including Claire’s psychoanalyst (Hubert Saint Macary). Star-crossed complications ensue, of course, not the least of which involves a corpse in Gregoire’s refrigerator that might or might not be connected to the book’s malevolent spell.
Dubroux weaves a lighter counterplot throughout the Claire-Gregoire storyline: Sebastien (Mathieu Amalric), Claire’s hapless friend, moves in with Claire and her mother (played by Dubroux herself) following a failed romance.
When his advances toward Claire are declined, he turns his attentions to the mother, inventing one silly ploy after another to bed her. His journal is yet another diary of a seducer — ridiculously overwrought but ultimately as effective as the Kierkegaard tome.
“Seducer” shifts pace and tone as deftly as it handles its plot twists, though early scenes too effectively mirror Claire’s ennui — the jolting discovery of the frozen corpse is a much-welcomed break from so much brooding melancholia, as is a comic dinner party with a suicidal host (French New Waver Jean-Pierre Leaud).
Mastroianni and Poupaud are fine as the young couple, but it’s Amalric who makes the strongest impression in the role of the indefatigably hopeful seducer. Saint Macary is perfectly deadpan as the shrink, providing the film a comic high point with a depressed, despairing soliloquy to an already disturbed patient. Vet actress Micheline Presle is funny in a small role as Gregoire’s batty grandmother, and Dubroux does a delightfully hard-edged turn as Claire’s sexy middle-aged mom.
Tech credits are professional if unexceptional, although film has a dark look that fits with subject matter but strains interest. Kierkegaard, anyone?