Tkings hours for a film, it is both very short and very long. In three hours, it was time to better understand the characters, sometimes it even comes to the point of being able to anticipate their reactions and their actions. Three hours it is justified when the plot is concrete (Barry Lyndon, The Wolf of Wall Street), when the psychology of the characters need to be developed by key light (The Life of Adele, The Godfather), when the framework is so rich that one can only want to continue the exploration (Lawrence of Arabia, Apocalypse Now), but this is not possible by remaining in a universe that is semi-enclosed, where the characters are scrolled without change of their personality, original and where the dialogues and the voice-overs give the impression to see two versions side-by-side in the same film.
Not everything is to throw in the third feature film d’Arnaud Desplechin, far from it, it is just that the film is struggling to convince on many aspects including that of the scenario, fairly long and tiresome. There is a stack of human relations to the contradictory nature that does not give anything the feeling to move the story forward. Everything remains frozen, in the expectation of a world that will not change, truths that no one is interested to discover, an outcome that will not happen.
Paul Dédalus (played by Mathieu Almaric) is a teacher of philosophy at the university of Nanterre and it’s been years that he is trying to finish his thesis and leaving his girlfriend Esther with whom he is in couple for 10 years for her greatest misfortune. The director weaves the plot around Paul and his group of friends. Between his love affairs doomed to failure and his job dissatisfaction, we get lost quickly in the maze of his conquests.
Moments (too few for my taste) where Esther (touching Emmanuelle Devos) appears on the screen illuminate the movie. Alone and totally dependent on Paul, she has no life that belongs to him, no friends, nothing more than an addiction love for Paul that prevents it from moving forward. This relationship would have deserved to be exploited in more detail. Moreover, Arnaud Desplechin would return in his new film Three Memories of my Youth , where he is filming the adolescence of Paul and Esther.
“We finally just get tired before the density psychological indigestible of the film, which reminds us that the cinema should not be just intellectual but also emotional.”
The characters are terribly empty, and abyssal complexity. Fixed in their behaviours, they exist only in the eye of Paul. They gravitate to him as if they had no existence of their own. Rather than presenting the quest sentimental in a tone more gentle, the film is lost in the attitude of depressive of the anti-hero. Paul seeks in vain to turn the pages of his life without realizing that, in trying to perpetually change, it denies its profound identity and is condemned to make the same mistakes again.
Very often compared to the classic Jean Eustache, The Mother and the Whore, for its length, and its subject, the film switches without stops at the borders of genres, between the tale, the story of a lost generation or a work of fiction, the debate remains open.
The work of Desplechin is impressive, I admit, but it is so rich, that it becomes impossible to truly enjoy it for its intrinsic value. You end up just frustrated to the density to psychological indigestible of HOW I PLAYED… (MY SEX LIFE) which reminds us that the cinema should not be just intellectual but also emotional.