Peter Shelley | Sydney, New South Wales Australia | 06/05/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"In this film Isabelle Huppert visits the ruins of Pompeii where it is said "after love is punishment". This is apt since Isabelle?s character, Lola, has terrible luck with men. Her husband is still entangled with his former wife, and her lover is married. Both of these men have children from their non-Lola relationships and both are tied to clinging hysterical females. In comparison, Lola is calm personified, but clearly lacking the manipulative skills to keep a man. Director Diane Kurys? 1983 Entre Nous, also with Huppert, was praised for it?s feminist treatment of the story of women with boorish husbands. This time around it appears she has taken the opposite view. Lola?s husband is given an Eve Harrington-type secretary, and we are repeatedly told how "stupid" a co-worker?s girlfriend is. And yes, you guessed it - she?s another hysteric. I can?t recall a film directed by a woman, with so many negative portrayals of women. In an attempt to break her writer?s block, novelist Lola keeps a diary from which she reads and creates scenarios, but these play as pure soap opera, and filmed in sepia, no less. The script which Kurys co-wrote also reads like a soap opera though occasionally she comes up with something. When Lola?s lover discovers his wife is having a revenge affair, he stalks her a la Taxi Driver. When Lola and he embrace, her tears are for the end of their affair, but his are for his cuckold. And there is an argument that becomes funny because of Lola?s refusal to participate. Kurys never gives Huppert the opportunities Claude Chabrol does and she is even stingy with closeups, which is a pity since her bob here is very pretty. Kurys tries to flatten Huppert into her mysogynistic universe, ogling her flesh in 2 [love] scenes, and even emphasising her shortness. The one lasting positive image is of a blissfully happy Lola, hugging her lover and caressing him Garbo-like with her chin. It recalls the way Marguerite Gautier nestles the chaise longue in Camille, though Huppert adds a kitty-cat smirk of satisfaction."