A Perfect Couple (2005) Poster

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But When She Moves
frankgaipa20 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Too many, on these pages and elsewhere, forget that film is visual. Too many sit in darkened screening rooms to read rather than to see images. Though inevitable, sound came late. Sound has never been absolutely necessary to cinema. Too many fuss about what happens next, when, how soon, or simply how. I'm far from avant-guard, dote on narrative, love low and high comedy, morbidly distrust directors who brag, as I once heard Alain Tanner at a screening of Dans la ville blanche, that they've learned to hold static shots longer and longer. Interspersed in my films-seen list is plenty of trash and genre, as well as the sublimely wordy like Rohmer. But Rohmer's so skilled at recording women, and men, in motion and in stasis, that his films are watchable, even fascinating, with the sound removed. His intricate dialogs may complete, but turning them off doesn't destroy the narrative thrust.

I can't quote scene or shot, but found Un Couple parfait almost unbearably suspenseful on the shot to shot level. Low lit, grainy images of Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's Marie whisper her emotional state more effectively than words could. Even when she's absolutely still, she isn't. A shallow breath. A blink. But when she moves! The film grows from electric light to carelessly dark daytime indoors to sunlight in the museum near the finish. The plot consists of Marie transforming, or not, advancing, or not, with the light. She is or isn't quite who, what, she was in the opening scenes.

I don't mean that all or even much is in the eye of the beholder, the audience. I'm sure it's not. It IS on the screen, to absorb, to decipher, not to overwrite, not to create on one's own. But give it a chance.

That opening scene, Marie's (Or was it Nicolas's?) announcement to disbelieving friends that they're separating, is suspenseful by any standard. The friends' disbelief colors every moment we spend with the two lovers thereafter. Maybe the friends' disbelief is also Nicolas's hurt. But it isn't Nicolas's film. Maybe it's Marie's self-doubt, guilt, or self-certainty. The friends pit Marie against herself or against herself as others perceive her. But either is too simple, simpler than what we see.

On two hours sleep after late night and early morning screenings, I caught, rapt, every frame of Un Couple parfait, then contently fell asleep during some Hong Kong dreck that screened after it.

I'm more than a little puzzled that Rohmer came to mind before Bresson. But it's probably valid. The use of light here, and color, is closer to Rohmer. Un Couple parfait is very much a color film. Rohmer has mastered color as Bresson never did.
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Best of SFIFF
lunagloria24 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This was my favorite film at the 2006 SFIFF. I found the improvisations very true to life. The bitter-sweet explosions of a struggling couple trying to complete something left unfinished is rarely painted in such a subtly nuanced and complex manner, as it is in this film. This is particularly evident during the scene where the two main characters are speaking to each other from separate beds, and through a closed door, alternately shouting and then whispering. We hear a monologue (as part of a two way conversation) knowing that this bit of dramatic irony (the person being spoken to cannot hear the dampened part of the delivery), like in Shakespearean tragedy, is lost, subsumed by entropy -- the phrase "my darling" (which could potentially turn the direction of the separation around), is spoken, but not delivered, not given. This is about love which exists, which is tremendously strong, but is withheld (at least temporarily) because of suffering, doubt, or exhaustion.

Also, sound was used to great effect, alternating silence and music to delay or accelerate time and emotions.
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Oppressive boredom
Chris Knipp16 April 2006
A couple on the verge of divorce (they announce it to friends at dinner), Marie (Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Nicolas (Bruno Todeschini) have returned to Paris after some years of living in Lisbon to attend an old friend's wedding. Although they bicker a lot, at the film's end there's a chance they aren't going to get divorced after all. The shift in locale has caused a change in feelings. Or is it just that the movie has no development? The Japanese director Nobuhiro Suwa had French contacts several years ago when he worked with Béatrice Dalle and Caroline Champetier, his cinematographer again here (who in turn has worked with some of today's most illustrious French directors) on M/Other, an "experimental" remake of Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour, a film selected to be shown in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes 2002. And Un Couple parfait owes something to improvisational directors like Cassavetes.

But if Cassavetes is the model, there is a difference, and an important one. Cassavetes worked with New York actors and settings that he knew well; Suwa, who speaks no French, just set things up and let things and the actors play out on their own -- in what he says was the shortest shoot he's ever done. Well, the crew got their jobs out of the way quickly, but it's a slow business to watch the results. There are moments of truth here generated by the leads, but overall, not enough to relieve the longueurs of this oppressive, stifling, and tedious study of a marriage. For the most part it doesn't look very good either. Astonishingly, considering her having worked with Garrel, Beauvois, Fontaine, Jacquot, Téchiné, and Desplechin on some very good films, Champetier's images are so murky in this unfortunate effort you can't even see Tedeschini most of the time.

Improvisation is a worthwhile, perhaps sometimes essential, way for actors to hone their skills, and can be a useful way to add emotional authenticity and realism to screen performances. There's no doubt that a whole film that's improvised is a challenge for the principals here that they were brave to have taken on, and Bruno-Tedeschi in particular achieves some truthful moments. But the technique is risky. Improvisational film-making quite often seems more fake than movies that are carefully choreographed. Under pressure and with no specific plan actors leave out necessary expository details. When they tell Esther (Nathalie Boutefeu) and Vincent (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) they're getting divorced, Marie and Nicolas forget to mention why and we never learn. They go on about other people's children so there's a hint that they're dissatisfied not to have produced any. Marie accuses Nicolas of being a fake. Well, acting is faking. The trick is to make it real. When actors are improvising, using fragments of their own experience and personalities with no intervention from a written text, the result may appear raw and authentic but it may as easily seem vague and unfocused. The content can't be completely autobiographical on the part of the actors, but without a text something is therefore missing. The actors in A Perfect Couple don't work up enough steam or have the chops and chutzpah to make this succeed as Cassavetes' actors such as Peter Falk, Gina Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel, and Cassavetes himself could do because of their rapport with the director and their history together and because of interest-generating conflicts they and Cassavetes introduced into the film plots.

Nicolas has a flirty drink with another wedding guest, Natacha (Joanna Preiss), and Marie runs into a school friend named Patrick (Alex Descas) and his son (Emett Descas) at a museum. Both scenes hint at the possibility that the couple may want to explore other possibilities, but being improvised without supervision, they fail to interact effectively with the whole. All we know is that at the end there is still some warmth in the marriage. But it's hard to care, since we're learned so little about the couple. Not much can be said for the performances of Bruno-Tedeschi and Tedeschini, who seem to have little in common other than their rhyming names.

The dullness (or shall we say neutrality) of the proceedings is increased by long static shots, sometimes with no actors in view, and occasional inexplicable blackouts suggesting the digital camera ran out of juice. If these effects create a sense of something new or convince you you're not watching unsupervised actors wildly flailing about for ideas and are actually eavesdropping on "reality," then rush to see Un Couple parfait. Otherwise you may want to take my advice and stay away from this clinker and hope it doesn't get to run the festival rounds; it isn't going to be at a theater near you and that's a good thing.
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An incomprehensible bore.
fabrice-morlat-13 April 2007
This movie is very difficult to understand, why do the couple want to divorce ? No reason is given, we don't know anything about their life in Lisbon, and even nothing about Marie's job. We may only understand that a certain bore appeared in this life. We don't even know who took the initiative of asking the divorce.

The way of filming is kind of special : I didn't know the director's name before the end of the movie, when I read it on the screen, I understood why it was so slow, only 42 shots in a hundred minutes (I counted them) ! It reminded me of some Japanese movies I saw in the 90's, in fact we must accept that this is the expression of another culture even if the set is occidental. I don't know if this story would have suited a Japanese couple.

One can see the logic of the scenes but the result is a bore, anyway I decided to watch it to the end because I wanted to get the spirit and the meaning of it all. In fact, I only understood that the story of these two beings may not be over yet since the train leaves the station without Marie. This is few for such a long time ! I can't recommend this work.
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So boring...
kerluptilu19 February 2006
I thought this is an unbelievable boring movie! i heard the director can't speak french and so he left his actors tell what they wanted... Well, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is great, as usual but I can't say the same of other actors. They have nothing to say, especially Bruno Todeschini.

They all seem very tired, this being one of the movie plot : tired of being together, of living abroad, of their live in general; so they spend half the movie sleeping in a hotel room. After a while i felt sleepy myself...

I gave 4, because of some very beautiful scenes, including the last one.
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I have to agree: boring
Arthur1a1 March 2006
I usually much prefer French movies over American ones, with explosions and car chases, but this movie was very disappointing. There is no way to write a spoiler because nothing really happens. This French couple has been living in Lisbon for years, and they return to Paris for a friend's wedding. They announce to another friend they are having dinner with that they are going to split. Then nothing much happens, they don't seem to know whether they want to separate or not. I don't necessarily think that their hesitations make for a bad movie, it is very human to hesitate before making such a decision for good, but this could be treated in an interesting manner, giving some flesh to their desires and their relationship, but that does not happen. One gets out of the theater unsure of why these two got together or want to split. The only piece I enjoyed was the conversation with the drunk. That was true to life.
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