I saw this movie in Paris and really enjoyed it but haven’t really been able to tell anyone about it. –Although one unfortunate thing about it is that a central theme is marital infidelity and marital unhappiness, it mainly follows the relationship of two very different sisters. This was unfortunate for me because this movie was the first in a series of 15 incidental movies which dealt with unhappy marriages and adultery. How completely depressing.
If the two main characters had to be inanimate objects, Isabelle Huppert would be a dried up stick, rigid and lifeless, and her sister played by Catherine Frot would be a rising ball of happy dough, full of promise and warmth. That’s how different the two are, and so brilliant in their roles. French actors are all mostly from the theater background, at least this generation, and their acting is so good it’s a pleasure to watch.
I think you would have to be French or have an appreciation for French culture to fully enjoy the movie because it’s really just so mean. It is so mean, in fact, that I curled up in the fetal position in my seat for a few minutes, then, when that didn’t do the trick, I shot up, and ran to the bathroom (intelligent movie theater they have one stall INSIDE the movie room, isolated by double-doors).
If I remember correctly, the first line of the movie that Isabelle Huppert addresses to her husband across the breakfast table is “Do you have to breathe so loud? Really, have some consideration. You’re ALWAYS BREATHING.”
Of course part of what made the movie so amazing was the sheer brilliance of the dialogue, an absolute pleasure to listen to and follow. Such a tight dialogue, so profound, so hurtful, so touching, so right on.
Part of the cultural idiosyncracy of the movie too was the fact that it illustrated the antediluvian opposition in France between “Parisians” and “Provincials”. You see, France has always been divided in two: Paris, and the rest of the country, the Province. One of the sisters (the mean and unhappily married one) made it out of the country, married extremely well and has never told anyone of her roots. The other is happy, she lives in the country and comes up for a visit to try and get a book she’s just written published.
During her visit, the Parisian sister realizes that her life has just fallen apart, and to watch the two interact through this crisis is incredible. One’s life is falling apart in every way, the other is charting a clear calm course without the bitterness and the anger, proving that it’s possible to live a full life without being numb to the inevitable sufferings of life.
I’ve rarely seen two women act against each other so powerfully. It was amazing to see in the performances of the actresses how their different reactions to the same childhood pain (an alcoholic mother) defined two different women, two different existences.
But oh..to watch them weave into each other’s lives. A masterpiece of acting.
Oh..and since the movie is French, yes. Graphic sex scenes.