Ironic tale of a married couple who split up and forge very different futures, "Chronicle" starts out with loads of promise but doesn't have a clue how to develop its intriguing opening reels. Some major pruning in the second half could help this otherwise interesting Swiss pic find small-screen sales.

Ironic tale of a married couple who split up and forge very different futures, “Chronicle” starts out with loads of promise but doesn’t have a clue how to develop its intriguing opening reels. Some major pruning in the second half could help this otherwise interesting Swiss pic find small-screen sales.

Geneva couple Pierre and Lola — two characters from director Pierre Maillard’s previous “7 Fugitives” (1993) — have a bedroom spat one day, and Pierre walks out. Left with bringing up her two kids, Lola sets up a one-woman kissing service (for money but always in public places), while Pierre gravitates toward becoming a street bum. Lola finally takes a more regular job washing dishes in a diner, and thinks about moving to a cheaper apartment outside the city; by this time, Pierre is halfway to the loony bin, and is arrested for drinking milk straight from a cow’s udder.

There’s more than a soupcon of Hal Hartley in the film’s first half, with characters doing completely unexpected things in the most natural way (Lola’s series of kissing clients offers some neat cameos), plus a fairy-tale element to the husband’s descent into hobo-ism and his communing with animals. Arthur Besson’s brash, fairground-style music also plays up the black comedy and lingering sense of unreality.

Around the 60-minute mark, however, both pacing and invention slacken, as if writer-director Maillard either ran out of ideas or felt uneasy with pursuing the more offbeat comic elements.

In the more interesting role as the take-charge wife, Patricia Bopp is excellent; Jean-Quentin Chatelain is OK as the more foggily written husband. Berengere Mastrangelo contribs a memorable cameo as an aggressive hooker, and Hanna Schygulla bookends the movie with some pretentious readings that should have been left on the cutting-room floor. Tech credits are fine.

Chronicle

Swiss

Production

A Zoo Films/Television Suisse Romande production. (International sales: Zoo Films, Geneva.) Produced, directed, written by Pierre Maillard.

Crew

Camera (color), Aldo Mugnier; editor, Monika Goux; music, Arthur Besson; art direction, Yvan Niclass; sound, Laurent Barbey. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Swiss Perspectives), Aug. 10, 1997. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Lola ..... Patricia Bopp Peter ..... Jean-Quentin Chatelain Darling ..... Berengere Mastrangelo Helene ..... Yvette Theraulaz Farmer's Wife ..... Loulou Woman in Restaurant ..... Hanna Schygulla
With: Fiona Sanmartin, Natacha Sapey, Jean-Marc Morel, Francois Berthet, Jacques Michel, Antonio Buil, Beatrice Marceau, Gabriel Bonnefoy.
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