A film that becomes increasingly shallow the more it endeavors to be profound, "24 Hours in the Life of a Woman" makes Stefan Zweig's time-jumping 1930 novella seem like a location-hopping fashion shoot. As slick as a perfume commercial and drenched in the ennui of beautiful people, fourth feature by Lauren Bouhnik ("Select Hotel") takes itself far more seriously than will audiences.

A film that becomes increasingly shallow the more it endeavors to be profound, “24 Hours in the Life of a Woman” makes Stefan Zweig’s time-jumping 1930 novella seem like a location-hopping fashion shoot. As slick as a perfume commercial and drenched in the ennui of beautiful people, fourth feature by Lauren Bouhnik (“Select Hotel”) takes itself far more seriously than will audiences, which reckon to be meager internationally.

Briefly ensconced in a modern French Riviera hotel that was once the exquisite villa where he summered in the 1930s, wealthy old ambassador Louis (Michel Serrault) rescues wild 19-year-old Olivia (Berenice Bejo) from her abusive b.f. During a long night, he relates a would-be resonant tale from his youth, when he discovered his mother’s affair with her tennis coach and, in turn, learned the story of a widow (Agnes Jaoui) who in 1913 fell recklessly in love with an irresponsible Polish army officer. Three interludes are so superficially staged that they completely fail to enrich one another as intended, and Bouhnik’s modernistic mannerisms, while possibly appropriate for other material, quickly become enervating in this context.

24 Hours in the Life of a Woman

France

Production

A Playtime/France 3 Cinema/TF1 Cinema/Cinevia Films/Road Movies/Grosvenor production, in co-production with France Television Images 2/Gimages 5/TF 1 Intl., with the participation of TPS Cinema and the support of Filmstiflung Nordrhein-Westfalen/Centre National de la Cinematographie/FFA-Filmfoorderungtanstalt/Programme Media de l'Union Europeenne and Procirep. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Boulogne.) Produced by Jean Cottin, Etienne Comar. Executive producer, Philippe Roux. Co-producers, Ulrich Jeisberg, Chris Chrisafis, Andrew Somper. Directed by Laurent Bouhnik. Screenplay, Bouhnik, Gilles Taurand, based on the novella by Stefan Zweig.

Crew

Camera (color), Gilles Henry; editors, Herve de Luze, Jacqueline Mariani; music, Michael Nyman; production designer, Tanino Liberatore; costume designer, Pierre-Yves Gayraud. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 6, 2002. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Agnes Jaoui, Michel Serrault, Berenice Bejo, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Frances Barber.
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