Nathalie

Film
THE MIRROR STAGE Bart reflects on her hourglass figure.
THE MIRROR STAGE Bart reflects on her hourglass figure.

Time Out says

Putting a non-twist on an entirely conventional story of infidelity—yes, the film does feature the complaint “We don’t make love anymore”—Nathalie is a rather complacent and bourgeois drama about unsettled bourgeois complacency. Though it features two lionesses of the French cinema staring each other down in agreeable fashion, un film de could have been followed by almost any name. Said lionesses meet after Catherine (Ardant) learns that her husband (Depardieu) cheats on her compulsively; jealous yet intrigued, she pays prostitute Marlne (Bart) to seduce him, with the understanding that after each roll in the hay Marlne will tell her about what happened.

Why Catherine does this is deliberately left ambiguous. Is it a strategy to trap her husband, or does she have an adultery fixation of her own? Either way, the movie seems oddly fetish-free for its subject matter—not to mention hollow, defining its characters solely in terms of their sexual activities, and generating erotic intrigue only when it focuses on Bart, whose dialogue suggests Eric Rohmer by way of Penthouse. (Moody cinematography and Michael Nyman’s mildly Morricone-ish score lend the film some class.) As she did in How I Killed My Father (2001), director Anne Fontaine creates the impression of sinister undercurrents, then pulls back the curtain and reveals there’s nothing there. If you can’t guess the ending, you’re in the target audience. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.)—Ben Kenigsberg

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