Monday, June 13, 2011

L'AUTRE
(THE OTHER)

16th French Film Festival
Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex




Anne-Marie (Dominique Blanc), a 47 year old social worker decides to end her relationship with a much younger man named Alex. It seems that Alex wants to settle down while Anne Marie is not the marrying kind. Their break-up is amicable and they continue to see each other, socially. Yet when Alex informs Anne-Marie that he is now dating someone new, she flows into a jealous rage and begins to act strangely with paranoia and insecurities taking over her excruciatingly lonesome existence.

The only interesting scenario in this murky characterization of a woman slowly losing her mind is that we, the audience are not given any glimpse of the other woman. In fact, I could go as far to suggest that maybe she is just the figment of Anne Marie's fertile yet seemingly demented imagination.

Alex doesn't openly talk about his new relationship. He merely shares vague facts about his new girlfriend. With these bits of information, Anne-Marie goes into a frenzy and puts on her stalker hat. She does Internet searches, leaves obscene phone messages yet remains only a virtual stalker. There were several instances during the film when you'd ponder whether Anne Marie would actually be able to physically assault her 'rival' if given the chance or if her threats were some harmless form of amusement for her to fill the void in her life.

The strength of the film hinges on the powerful acting talent of veteran French actress Dominique Blanc. Her portrayal of Anne Marie as a jealous woman was absolutely spot on. Her steely gaze and calm demeanor belies her utter fragility as a very vulnerable person. As we witness the folly of the central character, we cannot really be quite sure if she is slowly going insane based on the idea of 'another' woman or if we are dealing with a flawed persona from the get go.

Befitting the somber tone of the story, most of the scenes are set in a bleak, rather soul less Parisian suburb. We also see shots of Anne Marie commuting to and from work as well as the mall where they usually rendezvous. The surroundings are cold but beautiful as they are captured in rich dark shots.

Honestly, it is a rather disturbing film to watch. You try to sympathize with her yet at the same time you know that she truly brought it upon herself. This was evidenced by her narrative during the last minutes of the film. Questions do abound as to the veracity of her nuances but such are the norm in most Europeans films ... so be it!

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