Friday, April 27, 2007

From the IFC Theatre: Private Fears in Public Places

From Ira Gershwin: He loves, and she loves, and they love, so won't you love me as I love you? PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES, directed by Alain Resnais, tackles the age old question in this Parisienne tale that takes place in a constant showfall. Several plots interlink like a Seinfeld episode without the laughs.

Couple number 1: Thierry, late middle-aged, is attracted to somewhat younger Charlotte as they work together at a real estate office. Right away I was gratified to see a film featuring people in my AARP demographic. Charlotte shares her religious videos with Thierry but who is that woman dancing provocatively at the end of the tape? Could it be Charlotte? [Charlotte reminded me of Diane Keaton.]

Couple number 2: Dan and Nicole, in their 30s, are in a rotten relationship. He was cashiered out of the army for some infraction and now he's unemployed. Thierry spends a lot of time showing apartments to Nicole, who wants marriage, babies, etc.

Couple number 3 is not an actual couple but is Thierry and his younger sister Gaelle. Their age difference is too great to look like brother and sister. There's a joke she makes when she's annoyed with him about being glad she doesn't have to sleep with him. This is how you know it's a French film. [If it were Italian they might actually go for it.]

Couple number 4 is Dan, of Dan and Nicole, and Gaelle, of Thierry and Gaelle. Dan separates from Nicole and meets Gaelle on L'Internet.

Lionel is Dan's bartender and employer of Charlotte in her night job as home caretaker of his angrily senile father. Lionel likes Charlotte, who is religious, saying she's the best caretaker his father has ever had, marveling at the smile on the old gent's face as he sleeps. He is a non-believer, as I had assumed most Frenchman were. What is her secret? Could it be the Bible she carries or is it French-style Christian charity?

Dan and Gaelle have a booze-fueled night on the town and it ends chastely with a promise to meet again tomorrow but it doesn't come off as planned. Charlotte is a bewitcher of men and as the film ends another of her videotapes is in the mix, a funny scene. Thierry is the saddest character and must have grown up not watching French movies. I learned that some Frenchmen lead lives as boring as anyone else's.

In THE GREAT MOVIEMAKERS OF HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE by George Stevens, Jr., Ray Bradbury talked about how he would rewrite endings of movies and publish them in the New York Times. As this film came to a close I imagined how the American version will end. There would probably be a wedding or two and a flashforward to one year later with the new baby.

CALLING ALL ENGLISH LIT MAJORS: There's a scene with Lionel and Charlotte connecting in his kitchen that breaks from reality and switches to symbolism, as suddenly they are sitting in snow in the same kitchen. Then it cuts back to realism as they continue a heart-to-heart talk. I'm still trying to figure it out. Could be a reminder that no matter how pleasant kitchen chats are, the outside world will intrude.

PRIVATE reaches a Stan Lee illusion-of-change conclusion, where some go back to their routine, some move on a little bit, and time passes pleasantly under a constant, gentle snowfall. SPOLIER ALERT FOR 80s television: The falling snow reminded me of the last episode of ST. ELSEWHERE, where the entire series is revealed to be the imaginings of an autistic child looking into a snow globe.

A pleasant deux heures.

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