Review: ‘Luck or Coincidence’

Three decades after "A Man and a Woman," Claude Lelouch continues to mine the territories of romance and fate in "Luck or Coincidence." Once again his visual sweep and locales are breathtaking, and much of the drama is on target about the ethereal nature of love. One of his better recent efforts, pic should play well in markets where the helmer's work continues to be a presence. But securing distribution in English-speaking territories --- where his penchant for grand emotion and theatrical flourish have fallen out of favor --- will be difficult.

Three decades after “A Man and a Woman,” Claude Lelouch continues to mine the territories of romance and fate in “Luck or Coincidence.” Once again his visual sweep and locales are breathtaking, and much of the drama is on target about the ethereal nature of love. One of his better recent efforts, pic should play well in markets where the helmer’s work continues to be a presence. But securing distribution in English-speaking territories — where his penchant for grand emotion and theatrical flourish have fallen out of favor — will be difficult.

The new entry is again a cat’s cradle of interwoven narrative strands that eventually jell into a precise design. Myriam (Alessandra Martines) is a former classical dancer raising a young son, Serge (Arthur Cheysson), alone and considering her options. She meets Pierre (Pierre Arditi), an art broker and forger, by chance in Venice where he’s creating a faux Soutine painting for an unsuspecting American client. There is an immediate rapport.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, transplanted Frenchman Marc (Marc Hollogne) is creating interactive theater and pursuing work as a futurologist. He maintains that one can reliably predict tomorrow via a complex mathematical equation; luck and coincidence are not real factors in his life.

Following the filmmaker’s bent, the story will evolve to refute Marc’s assertion, and he will become a believer in the unpredictable and the heart. A precis of the story may sound preposterous, but one has to give oneself up to the intoxicating images, philosophical patter and musical interludes typical of a Lelouch film. In this instance, it’s not an unpleasant proposition.

Myriam and Serge wind up with Pierre in his cozy seaside nest. He maps out a vacation that will take them around the world and allow the boy to indulge his passions for Canadian hockey, polar bears and Acapulco cliff divers, as well as including a visit to Pierre’s remote Turkish birthplace, where the whirling dervishes popularized by Soutine are a part of everyday life.

The idyll is interrupted by events that become clear only much later. First there’s a tragic boating accident, and then Myriam goes into an emotional tailspin when the bag containing her camera is stolen at the Montreal airport.A short time later, Marc winds up in possession of her video camera and, seeing her tapes, becomes obsessed with tracking her down. He becomes as erratic as Myriam, jeopardizing his imminent marriage to Catherine (Veronique Moreau). Meanwhile, the woman retraces her steps and continues on her journey with stops at the New York bistro where Pierre’s Soutine hangs, and on to Acapulco.

It’s a dizzying journey, not only for the marvelous sights captured by Pierre-William Glenn’s camera, but for all the story has to impart about love and circumstance. Told in a bigger-than-life style, pic satisfies one’s passion for un grand amour played out in exotic locales with something akin to a happy, albeit bittersweet, ending.

Lelouch’s performers are uniformly strong, giving life to often overly ornate dialogue and overstated philosophical concepts. Martines has a natural charisma and worldliness that complement Arditi’s more seasoned romantic traveler. Hollogne takes longer to warm to: His character’s ardor borders on disquieting intensity at times. But in the end, his humanity prevails and the journey finishes neatly.

Luck or Coincidence

(ROMANTIC DRAMA - FRENCH-CANADIAN)

Production

A Film 13/TF1 Films/UGC Images/Neuilly/SDA production. (International sales: Film 13, Paris.) Produced by Claude Lelouch. Executive producer, Tania Zazulinsky. Directed, written by Claude Lelouch.

Crew

Camera (Eastmancolor/Fujicolor, Panavision widescreen), Pierre-William Glenn; editor, Helene de Luze, Stephane Mazalaigue; music, Francis Lai, Claude Bolling; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir, costume designer, Dominique Borg; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Harald Maury; choreography, Richard Wherlock; assistant director, Christophe Cheysson; casting, Arlette Gordon. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (noncompeting), Sept. 3, 1998. Running time: 121 MIN.

With

Myriam Lini ..... Alessandra Martines Pierre Turi ..... Pierre Arditi Marc Deschamps ..... Marc Hollogne Gerry ..... Geoffrey Holder Laurent ..... Laurent Hilare Serge Lini ..... Arthur Cheysson Catherine Desvilles ..... Veronique Moreau Michel Bonhomme ..... Patrick Labbe Mauro Lini ..... Luigi Bonino Counsel Assistant ..... France Castel The Thief ..... David La Haye
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