Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PASCAL BONITZER: SPELLBOUND/LES ENVÔUTÉS (2019) - RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA

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SARA GIRAUDEAU, NICOLAS DUVAUCHELLE IN LES ENVOûTÉS

Mixing sex and ghosts

In this film very freely adapted (with a tricky timeline) from Henry James's short story "The Way It Came" (which he retitled "The Friends of the Friends") Coline (Sara Giraudeau), a freelance writer for a women's magazine, is sent on the "story of the month" to the depths of the Pyrenees to interview Simon (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a gruff, solitary artist who may have seen his mother's ghost appear to him at the moment of her death. Coline is especially curious since her beautiful neighbor Azar (Anabel Lopez) has claimed to have seen her father's ghost at his passing. In the event, Simon tries to seduce Coline during the course of the evening, which she resists; but she falls for him anyway.

Bonitzer wrote many scripts for other notable directors and has by now directed many films. But of Right Here, Right Now (R-V 2017) I wrote, "there lingers a certain suspicion that this famous screenwriter (who's worked most for Téchiné and Rivette, but many others including Raoul Ruiz, Chantal Akerman and Barbet Schroeder) isn't quite as good a director as he is a writer: another person at the helm of this film might have provided it with more warmth and umph." N

Nicolas Devauchelle however is a sexy French actor who has an outsider quality about him enhanced by a lot of prominent tattoos and a strong presence. He has gotten to act for some of the best, Téchiné, Resnais, particularly Claire Denis: he has a hot segment in Denis' recent Let the Sunshine In. His debut was in Beau Travail. He has had a great twenty-year career, and he's still only 39. As the remote, but sure-footed Simon, he does not disappoint.

Nor does Sara Giraudeau, till the scenario leads her astray. Sara, who is 34, daughter of an actress and writer mother and (deceased) movie director father, has a decade of film roles behind her. She isn't pretty in the face, but resembles a Modigliani nude, with a thin but perfectly shapely body, which we get to see: her friend Azar, at some point, does a small painting of her unclothed, and she's seen in bed with Simon. Coline is marginal but somehow touch, as a freelance writer on a failing magazine must be. Why does she come apart? Too many inexplicable spirit phenomena, perhaps?

Les Envoûtés combines elements of the supernatural with those of romantic thriller (a French critic, Emilie Leoni, poetically calls it a "mélo aux frontières du fantastique".) Jean Serroy of href="https://www.ledauphine.com/france-monde/2019/12/11/on-a-retrouve-jean-claude-dusse-ce-qu-il-faut-voir-(ou-pas)-ce-mercredi-au-cinema">Le Dauphine Libéré, also cited by AlloCiné, wrote, "If there is a spell, it's an amorous and not supernatural one, and therefore rather banal and boring; but Sara Biraudeau and Nicolas Devauchelle are an enchanting couple - why not love them?" But there is never any clear logic in the behavior of either person, though ultimately it is the initially more "normal" Colline who goes most off the rails.

Initially this film has an appealing free-flowing quality, but later scenes are so off the wall it becomes frustratingly unrelatable. This film has more than its share of the inexplicable and seemed to me unduly complicated. I gave up caring. As Coline's best friend, Sylvain (Nicolas Maury of "Call My Agent") helps with warmth and humanity otherwise lacking.


Spellbound/Les envoûtés, 101 mins., was released Dec. 11, 2019 in France. Its AlloCiné press rating was a poor 3.0 (60%).

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema:
Sunday, March 8, 4:00pm (Q&A originally planned with Pascal Bonitzer; a filmed one was substituted that did not satisfy.)
Friday, March 13, 9:15pm

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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