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L' Ennui back to product details

black comic masterpiece
12345678910
written by RWaller February 27, 2004 - 6:33 AM PST
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Has no one else found this film funny? I was laughing helplessly through almost every minute of this agonizing and all-too-believable story based more or less on Alberto Moravia's The Empty Canvas.

Director CÚdric Kahn casts an ironic and unsympathetic eye on Martin (Charles Berling), a self-obsessed philosophy professor who seems to think everyone, especially his ex Sophia, should be fascinated with his inner crises. He is an egomaniac of Woody Allen proportions. He is still dependent on Sophia, though he has clearly long since driven her off with his craziness.

Through a bizarre series of events he meets his match .. Cecilia, the exact opposite of Sophia - a voluptuous but quite ordinary girl who is fresh from an affair with a 65 year old painter and is unruffled by Martin's rude and ceaseless interrogation, which she mostly just shrugs off. He is fascinated with her, he can't believe anyone can be so impassive, he must find out why the artist became obsessed with her, he must possess her. She seems amused by him, she is used to artistic types and simply ignores his raving. They strike an arrangement, and they meet together every day for sex. She is punctual, and even in the sex - which we see plenty of - she is affectionate but impassive.

Soon Martin, pretty loosely wrapped to start with, is going into a manic tailspin over Cecilia, frustrated with her apparent refusal to become emotionally involved, babbling to the disgusted Sophia about the details of their lovemaking and raving alternately about how he has to break it off with the girl, and how he has to possess her. He becomes a continuous pest, interrupting Sophia with phone calls and visits at all hours.

He becomes obsessed with the idea that Cecilia is cheating on him. She refuses to fight with him. He becomes enraged and begins habitually taking her forcefully at unexpected moments, trying to claim her. This too amuses her.

Martin's degeneration into a screaming, running maniac - which he wasn't far from to start with - is worthy of Roberto Benigni - he is in constant motion, driving at top speed, charging at every available telephone, running frantically down streets to "expose" Cecilia's infidelity, horrifying everyone he comes in contact with. The camera follows all this frantic activity without comment. When he finally does catch Cecilia lying about her "actor friend" she is unruffled even then, blandly confessing her simultaneous affair and uncomprehending of any problem this should cause him. Their ensuing difficulties lead to a calamitous climax from which, typically, he learns nothing.

The result of all this is a hilarious black comedy, ruthlessly and insightfully examining the relations between artists and the simple unreflective women ("empty canvases") they invariably become obsessed with, the attraction of opposites, the desire for the unobtainable, and the solitary nature of obsession. And this comedy is enacted in a beautiful visual framework, mirroring the art which is the unspoken source of all the action.

It is unclear whether Kahn and his star Berling intended this specifically as a comedy, but the film's wit and lack of mercy make it irresistable, laughter comes from the horror of recognition. There is no attempt made from beginning to end, to show either sympathy or contempt, either for the preposterous excesses of Martin's neurotic personality or the placid ruthlessness of the equally self-centered Cecilia, the object of his obsession.

12345678910

(Average 6.54)
41 Votes
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