An impish young art student's dark side emerges when a romance with a married doctor doesn't meet her expectations in the frosty thriller "He Loves Me … He Loves Me Not." Pic turns on an intellectual gimmick in the vein of "Memento," weaving down sinister byways, the better to click with satisfying symmetry.

An impish young art student’s dark side emerges when a romance with a married doctor doesn’t meet her expectations in the frosty thriller “He Loves Me … He Loves Me Not.” Pic, which marks Audrey Tautou’s first leading role since “Amelie,” turns on an intellectual gimmick in the vein of “Memento,” weaving down sinister byways, the better to click with satisfying symmetry. Modest but neatly plotted film from first-time scripter-helmer Laetitia Colombani is a somewhat formal but consistently engaging oddity that rewards viewers who like to pay close attention.

Set in sunny Bordeaux, film starts with the almost nauseatingly adorable Angelique (Tautou) charming a reluctant florist into delivering a single rose to the object of her affections — Loic Le Garrec (Samuel Le Bihan), a 30ish cardiologist with a thriving practice and a pregnant wife (Isabelle Carre). An orphan whose father was also an artist, Angelique wins a scholarship to exhibit at a group show in Paris, despite her tendency to reproduce Loic in her pictures instead of the model the rest of the class is sketching.

Angelique works part-time at a bar with her best friend, single mom Heloise (Sophie Guillemin), and also babysits for a woman with a sprawling suburban house and exotic plants. A medical student her own age, David (Clement Sibony), openly pines for her, but she remains smitten with the older Loic.

Even though she’s furious when Loic stands her up for a getaway trip to Florence, Angelique takes drastic steps to defend her beloved when one of his female patients publicly accuses him of molestation.

Despondent for various reasons, Angelique turns on the gas in the kitchen where she’s house-sitting and awaits the inevitable.

Then, at the pic’s 40-minute mark, everything the audience has been shown so far passes before her eyes in rapid-reverse, arriving at the opening scene in the florist shop. From that point on, we see the same events — but this time from Loic’s POV.

The contrast is as clever as it is unnerving. There are several false endings, but the final denouement is definitely worth the trip.

Both Tautou and Le Bihan put just the right shadings on their two-pronged perfs, and every character’s gestures, however abrupt or extreme, fit into a framework whose complexity is gradually revealed with great skill. However, the script’s precision does make the picture more a mentally than emotionally rewarding exercise.

Look of laid-back Bordeaux, while distinctly urban, makes a nice change from more familiar Paris settings. And while demonstrating that things aren’t always as they appear to be, movie makes nifty use of pop standard “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.”

He Loves Me … He Loves Me Not

France

Production

A UGC Distribution release of a Charles Gassot presentation of a Telema, TF1 Films Prod. production, with participation of TPS Cinema and Cofimage 12. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Paris.) Produced by Charles Gassot. Executive producer, Dominique Brunner. Directed by Laetitia Colombani. Screenplay, Colombani, Caroline Thivel.

Crew

Camera (color), Pierre Aim; editor, Veronique Parnet; music, Jerome Coullet; art director, Jean-Marc Kerdelhue; costume designer, Jacqueline Bouchard; sound (Dolby), Marc-Antoine Beldent, Cyril Holtz; casting, Pierre-Jacques Benichou. Reviewed at UGC Danton, Paris, March 26, 2002. Running time: 92 MIN.

Cast

Angelique - Audrey Tautou Loic - Samuel Le Bihan Rachel - Isabelle Carre Heloise - Sophie Guillemin David - Clement Sibony
With: Elodie Navarre, Eric Savin, Vania Vilers.
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