Monday, June 25, 2012

Techine’s Unforgivable

Evidently Venice is a lot like New York.  You will find a lot of writers and realtors there.  One fateful day, a French mystery novelist walks into a former fashion model’s real estate agency.  It will be the start of a very complicated relationship for the lead characters in André Téchiné’s latest pseudo-thriller, Unforgivable (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between Francis’s creative productivity and his domestic happiness.  He came to Venice to write in seclusion, but took up with Judith instead.  At least she had the perfect rental for him: a secluded old villa on the island of Sant’Erasmo.  Happy with his new home and lover, Francis has not written a word in months.  Fortunately or unfortunately, that will all change when his ostensibly grown daughter Alice comes to visit.

Either to get back at Francis or her vastly more responsible ex, Alice disappears without warning, apparently taking up with a penniless aristocratic drug dealer.  Not inclined to let things be, Francis hires the half-retired private detective Anna Maria, a woman from Judith’s past, to shadow his daughter across the continent.  As Francis’s escalating emotional neediness turns to jealousy, he hires Anna Maria’s delinquent son to shadow Judith in turn.

Based on Philippe Djian’s novel, Unforgivable is a perfect example of Téchiné’s knack for skirting the boundaries of the thriller genre without fully crossing over.  He toys with plenty of noir conventions, such as a mysterious disappearance, a smarmy underworld figure, and a whole lot of skulking about the streets of Venice.  Yet, Téchiné is more concerned with his characters’ extreme emotions—the passion, jealousy, and contempt driving their actions.

Perfectly cast as Francis, André Dussollier projects the appropriate sophistication, arrogance, and insecurity, while still connecting with something fundamentally human and sympathetic about the character.  However, the real pleasure of Unforgivable is seeing Carole Bouquet (the most under-appreciated “Bond Girl” ever in the pinnacle film of the Roger Moore era, For Your Eyes Only) as Judith, the mature femme fatale.  Indeed, it is a smart, delicately calibrated performance.

Capitalizing on the mysterious Venetian backdrop, Unforgivable is like a film noir for those who avoid on-screen violence and cynicism.  It is literate and worldly, yet compassionately forgiving of its characters self-defeating foibles (title notwithstanding).  Highly recommended for French film connoisseurs, it opens this Friday (6/29) in New York at the IFC Center downtown and the Beekman Theatre uptown.