Une Femme Francaise

on December 15, 1997 by Ed Scheid
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   Like "Indochine," which was also directed and co-written by Regis Wargnier, "A French Woman" ambitiously recreates the historical settings of an unhappy love affair. Jeanne ("Un Coeur En Hiver's" Emmanuelle Beart) marries Louis (Daniel Auteuil, Beart's co-star in "Un Coeur en Hiver"), a soldier who is soon called to combat in World War II, the first of his long absences for military duty. Feeling suffocated when her husband is away, Jeanne has adulterous affairs. No matter how public her in- fidelities, Louis always takes her back so that the family life with their children can resume before his next faroff posting. Jeanne's longest affair is with Mathias (Gabriel Barylli), whom she meets when her husband is stationed in postwar Berlin; Mathias follows her to France.
   The film is more successful with period externals than with the characters' internal motivations, which are superficially developed. With only a brief scene of Jeanne and Louis meeting before a cut to their wedding, the film never explains why Jeanne married someone so different from herself. What holds the film together is the force of Beart's intense performance as a woman whose life is dominated by her romantic passions. She vividly shows the pain of an often unsympathetic character; the film's strongest scene shows a hurtful effect of Jeanne's self-obsession. She has locked the door during an encounter with Mathias; when her son hears her screams during lovemaking, he desperately beats on the door, thinking his mother is in danger.
   Wargnier's direction maintains a fast pace as events move from France and Germany to the Middle East; a violent confrontation between Louis and Mathias in the ruins of Syria is particularly well staged. Wargnier has based "Une Femme Francaise" on the experiences of his mother. While Jeanne has her romantic rendezvous with Mathias, she often drops off her son at the movies. Her story imitates the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the '50s that her son watches. Starring Emmanuelle Beart, Daniel Auteuil and Gabriel Barylli. Directed by Regis Wargnier. Written by Alain La Henry and Regis Wargnier. Produced by Yves Marmion. No distributor set. Drama. French-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 100 min
Tags: Emmanuelle Beart, Daniel Auteuil, Gabriel Barylli, Regis Wargnier, Alain La Hentry, Yves Marmion, Drama, French, romantic, passions, self-obsessions
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