Private Fears in Public Places

Movies
3 out of 5 stars
GRIN AND SHARE IT Dussollier and Azma smile over a mutual secret.
GRIN AND SHARE IT Dussollier and Azma smile over a mutual secret.

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Long past the days of Mbius-strip moviemaking, octogenarian Alain Resnais has spent his twilight years putting a repertory company of actors through theatrical paces. You no longer judge his work by its formal audacity, or whether the pretentiousness reaches maximum toxicity; you look at these late-period entries as being either dramatically effective or dead in the water. Resnais’s second collaboration with Alan Ayckbourn, whose play Intimate Exchanges begat the director’s epic two-part farce Smoking/No Smoking (1993), seems fated to the second category, but give it time. Once the film’s glacial, failed attempts at laughs give way to meditations on loneliness, Private Fears reveals a center of quiet desperation beneath its shiny shell.

Isolation, ironically, is what the movie’s characters all have in common; that, and a propensity for wandering around future-deco sets. Resnais moves various left-of-center archetypes—a religious woman (Azma) with a kinky side, a real-estate agent (Dussollier) who’s the recipient of her charity, a soldier-turned-actor (Wilson)—in and out of each other’s lives. Yet unlike most interconnected ensemble pieces, closure never comes. This gambit makes the talky tragicomedy work despite the affectations; a determination to end well without all being well somehow feels like just the right move. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear

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