Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 4:53 pm 
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A squabbling couple

The prolific Matthieu Amaric, seen also at the Lincoln Center 2014 French film series in the Larrieu brothers' Love Is the Perfect Crime as a strutting professorial Lothario, becomes more of an everyman in Sophie Fillières' quirky study of a disintegrating marriage in Lyon, Arrête ou je continu. (It's been given the English title If You Don't, I Will.). This is the third performance for Fillières by Emmanuelle Devos, who plays Pomme, the disappointed wife of Pierre (Amalric). The others were Aïe/Ouch (2000) and Gentille (2005), the latter clearly a more interesting film, meandering and oddball, like this one, but blessed by the presence of not only Bruno Todeschini but the legendary actors Michel Lonsdale and Bulle Ogier. Here the cast is augmented only by a mountain goat. One feels the lack, and Pomme's long "fugue" in the park, which fills much of the film, is a dreary interlude. As the reviewer of this film for says, it begins with energy but "gets lost in the forest." Both Amaric and Devos have arguably had a great deal better material in the past. However, one must remember that this is a comedy, and while it may seem like watching paint dry, it does had its droll moments.

Amalric and Devos are no strangers to each other. Arguably the most original French film actors of their generation, they first played a couple 18 years ago in Arnaud Desplechin's distinctive, smart early film, Comment je me suis disputé... (ma vie sexuelle)/My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument. They have appeared together as a couple no less than six times now. They're not young anymore: Amaric is 49 and Deovs 50.

In a key scene at a party Pomme tries to drag Pierre out on the dance floor, but he stands there rigid. The comedy: Pomme complains to a female friend "We don't dance anymore," and the friend says "Nobody does." In a comic moment, the couple try to chill a half bottle of champagne using the fridge's "superfrost" button, and it explodes. They toast each other with chunks of ice. "Watch out for glass," says Pierre.

Since Pierre and Pomme's constant squabbling threatens to grow tiresome Fillières splits them up, though her method is the dubious park episode. The two go on an ill-starred hike in a nature preserve and when they fight as usual, Pomme, who's just recovered from treatment for a benign brain tumor and finds this change of venue a shock, chooses to stay behind in the park and lets Pierre go home in the car by himself. And what does she do? She basically sits around. Her cell phone battery goes dead. At one point she takes a break at a small resort hotel, posing as a chamber musician. Then she goes back to the park. Pierre comes to look for her, but the park is large. When she returns home days later on her own, Pierre, who has been frantic, hopes for a reconciliation. But none takes place. Pomme has saved the young chamois that fell into the stone and ground declivity she was sleeping in. She has not saved their marriage. While Pierre seems to have an affair cooking with Mellie (Josephine de la Baume), he and Pomme are still close, making attempts like the hike in the park and regular joint sessions with a trainer. There's just one thing that's lacking now: amour.

The humor and storyline here are not far from the work of Agnès Jaoui with Pierre Bacri. This is particularly seen in an early sequence at a gallery opening. But Fillières has a more delicate touch. Neither Devos nor Amaric has the dryness of that other couple's French humor, nor would Jaoui present a park sequence that was this flat. While the arguments are certainly real-seeming, Fillières doesn't provide any details of Pierre and Pomme's professional lives, and their no longer at home college-age son Romain (Nelson Delapalme), who's brought in a couple of times, is underused. This film seems likely to appeal only to ardent fans of the two actors and the director.

If You Don't, I Will/Arrête ou je continue , 102 mins., debuted in the "Panorama" section of the 2013 Berlinale. It opened in Paris cinemas 5 March 2014 (AlloCiné press rating 3.4, with good ratings from Cahiers and Les Inrocks). Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center (6-16 March 2014). US theatrical release NYC (Film Forum) through 30 Dec. 2014. Metacritic rating 68%.

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