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Anna M.

A woman's obsession spins wildly out of control in "Anna M.," a case study of madness whose title bears more than a passing resemblance to one of Freud's hysterics. A weak coda doesn't help what's been so painstakingly built, but Carre's perf continues her upward trajectory, and local play should see modest returns.

With:
With: Isabelle Carre, Gilbert Melki, Anne Consigny, Genevieve Mnich, Eric Savin, Gaelle Bona, Samir Guesmi, Francis Renaud, Pascal Bongard, Francois Loriquet.

A woman’s obsession spins wildly out of control in “Anna M.,” a case study of madness whose title bears more than a passing resemblance to one of Freud’s hysterics. Helmer/scripter Michel Spinosa is strongly served by lead actress Isabelle Carre, and he’s carefully composed every shot, but he appears not to know whether to sympathetically examine pathology or create a tension-filled “Fatal Attraction” scenario (though not quite so blowsy). A weak coda doesn’t help what’s been so painstakingly built, but Carre’s perf continues her upward trajectory, and local play should see modest returns.

Though never stated outright, it can’t be the first time Anna (Carre) has misconstrued kindness for love. At the start she deliberately steps into traffic and gets sideswiped by a car, sending her to the hospital and the pleasant though always professional ministrations of Dr. Andre Zanevsky (Gilbert Melki).

Anna, living alone with her mildly depressed mother (Genevieve Mnich), construes the good doctor’s generic solicitousness for genuine passion, latching on to every throwaway pleasantry as a declaration of love. Andre accepts her offer of a coffee just so he can stop her growing obsession, but she’s moving beyond the realm of reason and into full-blown stalker mode, stealing his mail and telling his wife Marie (Anne Consigny) that he doesn’t love her.

As her tantrums escalate and her ability to distinguish normal behavior disintegrates, Anna conveniently finds a job looking after a couple of tots who just happen to live above Andre’s family (her real employment as a book conservator has been forgotten after some fine early scenes). Once ensconced upstairs, Anna manages to convince a locksmith to let her in down below and proceeds to leave her mark. Finally mom realizes Anna has lost it and commits her, though in classic “fool the shrink” mode she manages to pull the wool over her psychiatrist’s eyes.

Perhaps it’s the speed with which Anna plunges off the deep end, but about half way through she stops being an interesting though deeply disturbed fantasist and turns instead into a frightening but rather unexceptional monster. Spinosa’s script allows for too many kind and clueless enablers (she gives no references for the babysitting job, she’s not asked for any identification by the locksmith) who become easy pawns for the screenplay’s purpose but feel too handily tossed in. Pic is divided into chapters, each with a stage of her psychosis (“Hope,” “Discontent,” “Hatred,” etc.).

The character of Andre and brief scenes with his wife are nicely, succinctly written, though the lion’s share of screentime goes to the superb Carre, who beautifully handles the transition from almost little girl hesitancy to crazed confidence and succeeds in keeping a modicum of pity through most of the film.

Pic’s other major asset is d.p. Alain Duplantier’s handsome widescreen lensing, with its accomplished use of space (the library, the hospital courtyards) all carefully attuned to Anna’s sense of solitude. Spinosa nicely uses various snatches of music to increase the sense of tension and dread, and final song by Au Revoir Simone handily links Anna’s state with the lyrics.

Anna M.

France

Production: An Ex Nihilo, Rhone-Alpes Cinema, AGAT Films production, with the participation of La Region Rhone-Alpes et du CNC, Canal Plus, Cinecinema. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Patrick Sobelman. Directed, written by Michel Spinosa.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Alain Duplantier; editor, Chantal Hymans, production designer, Thierry Francois; costume designer, Nathalie Raoul; sound (Dolby Digital, dts), Pierre Mertens; sound editor, Valerie Deloof; casting, Antoinette Boulat. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), February 14, 2007. Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Isabelle Carre, Gilbert Melki, Anne Consigny, Genevieve Mnich, Eric Savin, Gaelle Bona, Samir Guesmi, Francis Renaud, Pascal Bongard, Francois Loriquet.

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