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Toxic Affair

Isabelle Adjani returns to the screen after a four-year absence with the too appropriately titled "Toxic Affair." The shrill comedy, which closed this year's Cannes festival, is an excruciatingly banal and ill-conceived look at modern relationships. Adjani's name may stir some initial interest in France, but the effort will do nothing to enhance her international reputation, and foreign sales will likely be extremely limited.

Isabelle Adjani returns to the screen after a four-year absence with the too appropriately titled “Toxic Affair.” The shrill comedy, which closed this year’s Cannes festival, is an excruciatingly banal and ill-conceived look at modern relationships. Adjani’s name may stir some initial interest in France, but the effort will do nothing to enhance her international reputation, and foreign sales will likely be extremely limited.

Writer/director Philomene Esposito chronicles the neurotic adventures of ex-model Penelope (Adjani). Now looking to a career in writing, she allows her entire life to come to a stop with the departure of boyfriend Georges (Hippolyte Girardot).

She contemplates revenge and she contemplates suicide — in the process nearly driving her best friend Sophie (Clementine Celarie) to do the deed herself. It’s not a pretty personal picture, and despite the actress’s charisma, the character builds suitable cause for inflicting a mercy killing.

Though Adjani is more than capable of carrying every frame of the movie, the script simply isn’t there. Dominated by an hysterical edge, the comedy is noticeably absent. One wonders why anyone considered this a commercial venture.

The actress is the least well served in the cast, but no one wins in such an “Affair.” Michel Blanc, in a brief cameo, provides a few moments of well observed levity which rapidly evaporate into a hopeless attempt to wring humor from a patently unfunny situation.

Technically handsome, the film features Dolby’s new digital system. The good word on this is that separate high-decibel dialogue and music tracks can be heard distinctly and simultaneously. The very bad news is that, in “Toxic Affair ,” both are an affront to the ears.

A true artistic catastrophe, “Toxic Affair” is charmless and inane. Director Esposito demonstrates an amazing lack of resourcefulness in conveying any evidence she inhabits a known earthbound society. Come renewal, she should discover her artistic license has expired.

Toxic Affair

(Comedy -- France -- Color)

  • Production: A Gaumont release of a
  • Crew: Camera One/France 2/Lilith Films production. Produced by Michel Seydoux. Executive producer, Armand Barbault. Writer/director, Philomene Esposito. Camera (Fuji color), Pierre Lhomme; editor, Noelle Boisson; art direction, Daniel Chevalier; costumes, Olga Berluti; music, Goran Bregovic; sound (Dolby Digital), Pierre Lenoir; casting, Francoise Menidrey. Reviewed at the Salle Debussy (noncompeting), Cannes, May 23, 1993. Running time: 89 min.
  • With: Penelope ... Isabelle Adjani Sophie ... Clementine Celarie Mr. Ray-Ban ... Sergio Castellitto Georges ... Hippolyte Girardot Clumsy Man ... Michel Blanc Psychiatrist ... Fabrice Luchini