Conceived by one ex-Cahiers du Cinema critic -- Herve Le Roux -- and patterned, with deliberate laboriousness, after the films of another -- Jacques Rivette -- "And They Call This ... Spring?" is a far cry from the light, lilting blend of feminist-fantasy inclinations and musical-comedy pastiche to which it aspires. Deathly calculated, with pig-headed comic projections of noble men drowning in a tide of manipulative, sex-crazed women, pic is supposed to be a comedy, but it's tough to figure out the bigger misconceptions: the cruel, spiteful characterizations of the three heroines, the soporific, one-note premise or the dreadful look-at-me quality of the baroque musical interludes. B.O. lifeline, both at home (where pic is scheduled to open March 21) and offshore, looks to be flat as any one of pic's comic devices.

Conceived by one ex-Cahiers du Cinema critic — Herve Le Roux — and patterned, with deliberate laboriousness, after the films of another — Jacques Rivette — “And They Call This … Spring?” is a far cry from the light, lilting blend of feminist-fantasy inclinations and musical-comedy pastiche to which it aspires. Deathly calculated, with pig-headed comic projections of noble men drowning in a tide of manipulative, sex-crazed women, pic is supposed to be a comedy, but it’s tough to figure out the bigger misconceptions: the cruel, spiteful characterizations of the three heroines, the soporific, one-note premise or the dreadful look-at-me quality of the baroque musical interludes. B.O. lifeline, both at home (where pic is scheduled to open March 21) and offshore, looks to be flat as any one of pic’s comic devices.

You know you’re in trouble when pic opens on two women — Fanfan (Maryse Cupaiolo) and Joss (Marie Matheron), who have been having an affair — walking out on their respective husbands and moving in

with Fanfan’s sister, Manu (Marilyne Canto). And that’s supposed to have the viewer laughing hysterically.

That women regularly behave so erratically and are apt to engage

in sexual relations with any animal, mineral or vegetable that comes down the pike, is essayed by Le Roux as a given.

Even Manu, who initially appears the most level-headed of the bunch — she plays affectionately toward her husband, Mytch (Michel Bompoli), and gives off an aura of fastidious ordinariness — is quickly revealed to be engaged in an affair of her own. If Le Roux allows Manu to retain a shred more dignity than the rest of his female characters, it’s only because she’s just having one affair, and it’s with a man.

What’s infuriating about this shorthand misogyny is Le Roux’s

somnambulism — he doesn’t even seem aware of his own nastiness. His women have no inner emotional lives, which makes them thankless parts for three unlucky

actresses — yet the film’s tone is pitched at a level of light-hearted comic breeziness.

Pile on those arch musical set-pieces, in which the jilted husbands appear in full Three Musketeers regalia to recount the wearying events in pedantic verse. Le Roux externalizes everything in a series of implosive

battles between the sexes and bed-hopping, who’s-sleeping-with-whom fragments. Pic doesn’t embrace feminine virtue and mystique so much as it condemns, excoriates and publicly disembowels women.Tech credits are acceptably average, with Pierre Milon’s exceptionally crisp Super 16 lensing a particular plus.

And They Call This ... Spring?

France

Production

A Diaphana release (in France) of an Agat Films and CIE presentation in association with Arte France Cinema. Produced by Gilles Sandoz. Directed, written by Herve Le Roux.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16mm-to-35mm blowup), Pierre Milon; editor, Nadine Tarbouriech; production designer, Patrick Durand; sound, Frederic Ullmann; assistant director, Dominique Perrier. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Tiger Awards competition), Jan. 30, 2001. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Manu - Marilyne Canto Fanfan - Maryse Cupaiolo Joss - Marie Matheron Claude - Bernard Ballet Paul - Pierre Berriau Mytch - Michel Bompoli Charles - Antoine Chappey Jean - Laszlo Szabo
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