Saturday, 26 December 2009

La femme d'a cote

Francois Truffaut is one of the best directors of all times (yes, I remember Ray, Renoir, Kurosawa, Ozone and many others) and La femme d'a cote is his best. His best known films are Les quatre cents coups and Le dernier metro. However, this film that I am writing about now, appeals right from the beginning for its precision, economy, incisive insight, vividly sensitive portrayal of characters and after all a complete understanding of human emotions. The film is based on love, treachury, lust and blood - in short everything that life is made of. A classic and one of the ten best films that I have seen in my life.

I first saw this in the Hamsadhwani theatre at Pragati Maidan in Delhi. The hall is small and this intense film made the hall seem smaller. The film has Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant in the lead roles. Superb restrained performance from Depardieu. We all know he is a great actor. But this performance required more restraint than anything else and he excels in that. Fanny Ardant has the role of a sensitive woman whose love for Bernard (Depardieu) knows no bounds. They knew each other and Bernard dumped her. As luck would have it, they happen to be neighbours many years later. That unfolds the drama. La Femme d'a Cote literally means The Woman Next Door. By now of course Mathilde (Ardant) is married as is Bernard. What follows is a tumultuous affair.

I recently saw it again and all the things that I like about this film became apparent once more. A lot of the acting in this film is done with eyes. Of course, Depardieu and Ardant are the best in the trade. But the rest of the crew live up to the standard. The film is set in Grenoble. Bernard and Mathilde rent room number 18 in a hotel for their sexual escapades. One day, Mathilde arrives slightly after Bernard and asks the receptionist for the key. The receptionist, a middle aged woman, tells that Bernard is waiting for her in the room. As Mathilde starts climbing the stairs, the receptionist looks at her. A look containing a mixture of emotions.

A gripping tale of basic emotions, the film keeps you on the edge. When I saw the film for the first time, the end came as a shock. Now nearly twenty years later, I know that there could be only one natural ending - the one the director chose. I have hardly seen a more complete film apart from Rashomon and Charulata. I would love to go on and on about this film, but in this blog I try not to reveal the entire plot.