Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Woman Next Door

Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut, Jean Aurel, and Suzanne Schiffman, La Femme d’a cote (The Woman Next Door) is the story of a family man who learns that his former lover has moved in next door with a family of her own as the two try to deal with their feelings for each other. The film is an exploration of love that was lost as two lovers have an unexpected reunion but with attachments they couldn’t leave behind. Starring Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant. La Femme d’a cote is a rapturous and intoxicating film from Francois Truffaut.

In this interpretation of the legendary love story Tristan and Iseult, the film is an exploration of two people who hadn’t seen each other for eight years as they rekindle a passionate love affair. Yet, they’re consumed with guilt over committing adultery and keeping it a secret from their spouses as old wounds begin to re-emerge. The film’s screenplay is told from the perspective of a tennis club owner Madame Jouve (Veronique Silver) who had also endure the same kind of heartbreak and temptation that Bernard (Gerard Depardieu) and Mathilde (Fanny Ardant) are dealing with as they would see each other for the first time in eight years. While both Bernard and Mathilde are married to other people with a son for Bernard, the two are drawn into capturing a love that had happened a long time ago. Unfortunately, their devotion to their spouses complicate things as the film’s second half showcases not just one wanting to continue the affair but also a sense of resistance that would force some truths to come out.

Francois Truffaut’s direction is very simple as he doesn’t really go for any sense of style as the film opens and ends with Madame Jouve telling the story about Bernard and Mathilde but that is it as she’s essentially a supporting character in this story. Shot on location in Grenoble, the film definitely has a small town look and feel where Truffaut does use a few wide shots but mostly go for medium shots and close-ups to play into this romance that is resurging. Even in the way he let the actors play into their emotion as there’s also these unique shots of longing where Bernard and Mathilde would often look out at the window to observe the other lives they have. These shots play into the looming sense of guilt that occurs as it would drive much of the film’s third act in its exploration of love and guilt. Overall, Truffaut crafts a very captivating and somber film about two lovers who reunite as neighbors.

Cinematographer William Lubtchansky does excellent work with the cinematography from the sunny and colorful look of the locations and tennis club in the day to some of the lighting schemes set at night. Editor Martine Barraque does nice work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with a few jump-cuts and some dissolves to create a sense of style to express the sense of longing. Production designer Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko does superb work with the look of the different homes that Bernard and Mathilde live in.

Costume designer Michele Cerf does brilliant work with the costumes from the clothes that Mathilde wears to express her great taste in fashion along with some of the more casual look of the men. The sound work of Michel Laurent and Jacques Maumont is terrific for some of the sound effects that occurs in some of the film‘s location setting as well as some scenes that play into the film‘s drama. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is fantastic for its somber orchestral score to play into the drama and sense of longing that Bernard and Mathilde have for each other.

The film’s cast features some notable small roles from Olivier Bedquaert as Bernard’s young son Thomas, Philippe Morier-Genoud as a doctor late in the film, Roger Van Hool as a publishing friend of Mathilde’s husband who helps Mathilde with a book, and Veronique Silver in a wonderful performance as Madame Jouve who tells the story as she is someone who understands what Bernard and Mathilde are going through. Michele Baumgartner is terrific as Bernard’s very kind wife Arlette who is concerned over Bernard’s behavior while Henri Garcin is excellent as Mathilde’s husband Philippe who begins to suspect something as he tries to understand what is wife is going through and try to hide.

Finally, there’s the duo of Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant in exquisitely phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Bernard and Mathilde. Depardieu brings this ferocity to someone who is eager to capture a part of his life that he had lost. Ardant has a much more restrained role as a woman anguished by her past as she isn’t sure if she wants to continue as both she and Depardieu manage to present aspects of charm but also a great weight of despair into their performances.

La Femme d’a cote is a rich and enchanting film from Francois Truffaut that features majestic performances from Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant. It’s a film that explores old love returning and the emotional baggage it carries for two people who think they have moved on. In the end, La Femme d’a cote is a remarkable film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - Fahrenheit 451 - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - Day for Night - The Story of Adele H. - Small Change - The Man Who Loved Women - The Green Room - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - Confidentially Yours

The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2014


Anonymous said...

Ardant is just astonishing here! I really loved this film and found the way that it developed it's themes to be really remarkable. It ventures into Soap Opera levels of dramatism and yet never feels out of place or trying to hard. It all feels strangely normal.

thevoid99 said...

She is great in this film. I didn't think it felt like a soap opera film but rather a melodrama in a restrained form. I think that is the approach that Truffaut went for and it worked.