Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 7:53 am 
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Cash out

The French title, L'Économie du couple ("The Economy of the Couple") best explains the true premise of this, one of the 43-year-old Belgian director Joachim Fosse's most grueling and rigorous dramas about screwed-up parents, and one that treads on ground likely to be painfully familiar to many whose marriage has gone wrong. Two people are still a couple, as the action begins, on account of money: that's the primary regle of their jeu. Marie (Béatrice Béjo) and Boris (Cédric Kahn) are no longer in love but Marie has a job and family money while Boris, who did the beautiful restoration on their big graciously appointed apartment (which she technically owns), isn't working, much anyway; is without financial resources; and needs a place to stay till he gets on his feet. He also loves and cares for their twin daughters Jade and Margaux (Jade and Margaux Soentjens), who furthermore like daddy just fine. He minds them certain days - a schedule he plays too loose with, for Marie - so she can go out to work. Maybe also Marie has confused sex for love all along, too, and the working class Boris' macho appeal still holds her, however much her chilly bitchiness says otherwise. But much of the time he is, or she makes him seem, like an invader in his own home: how awful - for both, for everyone!

Fosse's bravely and with some success enters here territory commanded once and for all by Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage. If he can't match the detail of the Swede's lengthier study, he does succeed in making 90 minutes feel at times almost as long as a mini-series. Fans of other Fosse films will be happy no children were harmed in the making of this one. You'd think the girls would be, and that they seem all the while unscathed is the one arguable flaw in their wonderfully natural performances. But some souls are blithe.

All the action takes place in the big apartment, and there is one trip too many to the handsome built-in fridge, one flop-down over the limit of Marie onto her bed or the living room couch. How grating both of them are! Marie is pointlessly chilly; Boris' confident male aggressiveness is borderline threatening. The way he skates along that border between firmness and menace without slipping is one of the film's small acting triumphs. And yet it is Béjo who has gotten the acting awards for her turn as Marie.

One morning Marie's mother (Marthe Keller) says, "People used to mend things. They'd mend socks, refrigerators. Now they throw them out as soon as there's trouble. It's the same with a couple - no desire, out it goes." Boris suggests they try couples therapy. This isn't a pretty picture of Marie. She makes the conditions for that impossible, and prohibits Boris restoring her mother's house, which her parents approve and would get him on his feet. She is an obstructionist. Eventually, they do work something out. The film is unusual in its lust for the dirty, drab details of who and how much and when in the division of property and cash buyout. Certainly Marie wants more than her share and does, more than once, act the part of of the "bourgeois" "daddy's girl" Boris accuses her of being. But he has been unreliable and irresponsible. Why were they ever together? Other things, of which this money-mad, talky, theatrical film has not much to say.

After Love is ruthless, but overall, if you make the slog, it has an energy and quiet rigor some of Fosse's other films have lacked, though, as with the Bergman, watching this requires patience and forbearance. Its math applied to emotional chaos seems narrow but sadly may fit the endgames of many a couple.

See my discussion of some of Fosse's other films in my review of his 2012 Our Children/À perdre la raison. This new one is clearly more a success than his disappointing White Knights/Les chevaliers blancs, which Vincent Lindon, in a rare unappealing role, couldn't save. Fosse collaborated with Fanny Burdino and two others in writing the scenario and dialogue this time.

After Love/L'Économie du couple, 93 mins, debuted at Cannes Directors Fortnight May 2016, playing in at least seven other fests including Munich, Toronto, Rio, Vancouver and London. Its French theatrical release 10 Aug. 2016 met with solid reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.5 from 28 reviews). The US theatrical release begins at Quad Cinema NYC 9 Aug. 2017,followed by 25 Aug. openings at the 4 Star San Francisco and 1 Sept. Laemle Los Angeles, with a wider roll-out to follow.


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