Resnais's double-barrelled screen version of Alan Ayckbourn's expansive stage cycle Intimate Exchanges immediately hits the stumbling block of language. Here are the emotionally stunted denizens of the English middle class; yet what we hear is the vernacular French of Azéma and Arditi grandstanding in five roles apiece. In short, if you're expecting a BBC-style adaptation, almost everything about these films will seem fake - which is precisely what makes them so captivating. Once you get used to dialogue in translation and the cartoonish view of Little England, what's on offer is a disarming, impish delight in storytelling. Each piece proceeds to travesty dysfunctional marriages and illusory dreams of escape before fanning out in a series of alternative destinies for its variably articulate protagonists. When the films are seen singly, the overriding concept is clear enough. Viewed in tandem, their criss-crossing content provides all sorts of contextual pay-offs. There are miscalculations in some of the broader comedy, and No Smoking is probably the more entertaining of the two, but this is Ayckbourn gone Cubist, and that you have to see.
Cast and crew