An enervating study of the hang-ups of a chic young Parisienne wife and mother, this languid look at psychoanalysis and hypnosis is unlikely to be of much interest to the world's arthouse audiences unless its mannered brand of soul-searching clicks with influential critics.

An enervating study of the hang-ups of a chic young Parisienne wife and mother, this languid look at psychoanalysis and hypnosis is unlikely to be of much interest to the world’s arthouse audiences unless its mannered brand of soul-searching clicks with influential critics. Director Benoit Jacquot’s reputation stretches back to his 1977 “Children of the Cupboard,” but he’s pretty much an unknown quantity outside France and, on the basis of this film, is likely to remain so.

Beautiful, ethereal Sandrine Kiberlain is the severely troubled Mathilde, who would seem to have it all. She lives in a spacious apartment with her surgeon husband, Nico (Vincent Lindon), and employs a nanny to care for her adorable son. Her sophisticated mother (Francine Berge) runs a legal business at which Mathilde occasionally works.

But Mathilde is bored and restless. She haunts department stores and steals toys to give to her son. What’s her problem? Not surprisingly, it’s sex. It turns out that the couple have a passionless relationship, and Mathilde claims later she’s never had an orgasm.

One day at a party she reluctantly attends with Nico (who promptly abandons her), Mathilde sees a strange man (Francois Berleand) watching her meaningfully. Next day she sees him again on the metro. Finally, he approaches her, claims to be a psychiatrist specializing in hypnosis, and takes her to a deserted restaurant where they have their first session while he tucks into the smoked salmon. He advises her that the position of the marital bed in their apartment is of crucial importance, and forces her to come to terms with the fact that, at 29, she’s the same age her father was when he was killed in a road accident.

The cure might or might not make sense, but the doctor himself is an odd character, and it’s frustrating to discover, in the press book, a statement from the director in which he explains that the mysterious medico is a figment of Mathilde’s imagination, something in no way made clear by the film itself.

Before long, Mathilde is “cured,” and, to Nico’s astonishment, experiences her first orgasm; but now the sexual tables are turned, and it’s Nico who has the hang-ups and is in need of psychiatric help. He starts behaving oddly, blocking traffic with his car while he sits in a trance, and performing surgery with a complete lack of concentration. Now it’s his turn to see a shrink, who turns out to be another implacably odd and, one would have thought, unhelpful character.

This less than inspiring relationship unfolds without much in the way of genuine insight and completely without a trace of humor. Kiberlain and Lindon, capable actors both, give robotic performances. On the plus side, pic is elegantly shot in the Scope format, with controlled use of color, light and framing — cinematographer Romain Winding performs miracles with the material.

Accompanying music is drawn from a variety of sources, most notably a plaintive flute theme from Japan. Technical credits are excellent in every department. Pic bears no relationship to the popular weepy filmed twice in Hollywood by Fox.

Seventh Heaven

French

Production

An FPI release of a Dacia Films/Cinea/La Sept Cinema production, with the participation of Canal Plus, the Centre National de Cinematographie. (International sales: Pyramide Films, Paris.) Produced by Georges Benayoun, Philippe Carcassonne. Directed by Benoit Jacquot. Screenplay, Jerome Beaujour, Jacquot.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen,), Romain Winding; editor, Pascale Chavance; production design, Arnaud de Moleron; costumes, Caroline de Vivaise; sound (Dolby SR), Michel Vionnet; associate producer, Chantal Poupaud; assistant director, Antoine Santana; casting, Frederique Moidon. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Aug. 27, 1997. (Also in Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Mathilde - Sandrine Kiberlain Nico - Vincent Lindon The Doctor - Francois Berleand Mathilde's Mother - Francine Berge Etienne - Pierre Cassignard The Practitioner - Philippe Magnan Chloe - Florence Loiret
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