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Private Fears in Public Spaces (Coeurs) (4 stars)

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What is it about those French New Wave filmmakers? Godard, Rivette, Chabrol and Rohmer all continue to make films, and here 84-year-old Alain Resnais returns with this elegant and melancholic study of emotional repression, loneliness and longing.

Based on one of prolific Scarborough based playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s more recent plays, which Resnais has transposed from London to a wintry Paris, and filmed in a series of studio-bound interiors, Private Fears in Public Spaces consists of some 50 short scenes, examining the interconnected and unfulfilled lives of six middle-aged characters. There’s a gentle estate agent Thierry (André Dussollier), who lives with his single younger sister (Isabelle Carré), and who is drawn to his devout secretary Charlotte (Sabine Azéma). There’s also an estranged couple (Laura Morante and Lambert Wilson) and a sympathetic bartender (Pierre Arditi), who’s saddled with a cantankerous elderly father.

From the opening shot of the camera dropping down over the sky to swoop over the French capital, it’s the way that Resnais stages this spectacle that makes Private Fears in Public Spaces such a pleasurable watch. The artificial, colour-coded sets, several of which lack ceilings, the graceful cinematography of Eric Gautier, and the recurrent motif of fake falling snow create a fairytale ambience. There are playful touches too, but it’s the beautifully judged ensemble performances that invest the film and its saddened characters with real humanity.

Private Fears in Public Places

  • 4 stars
  • 2006
  • France
  • 120 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Alain Resnais
  • Written by: Jean-Michel Ribes
  • Cast: Sabine Azéma, Lambert Wilson, André Dussollier, Pierre Arditi, Laura Morante, Isabelle Carré, Claude Rich (voice)

Elegant and melancholic study of emotional repression, loneliness and longing based on one of Alan Ayckbourn's more recent plays. Some 50 short scenes illustrate the interconnected and unfulfilled lives of six middle-aged Parisians: beautifully judged ensemble performances that imbue the film and its saddened characters…

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