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1 item from 2000

Film review: 'Alice and Martin'

25 July 2000 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

'Alice' Turns Down Heat / Low-intensity French import has charm, but Binoche breezes through enigmatic romance

By David Hunter

A 1998 French-Spanish co-production that comes off as a low-

intensity French import after the likes of "Pola X", "Romance" and "Humanite", USA Films' "Alice and Martin" is not without bookish charm -- everything is arranged neatly in chapters, for starters -- but it's hardly a must-see (or, rather, a must-read of English subtitles for the French-language film).

Director/co-writer Andre Techine ("Wild Reeds", "Thieves"), working with screenwriter Gilles Taurand (they also collaborated on Techine's 1985 Cannes winner "Rendez-vous"), is a mild-mannered dramatist with a lot of ground to cover in this lengthy tale of the bastard son of a successful man who runs away to Paris from a tragic event and a seesaw relationship with the woman of his dreams.

In a role she relatively breezes through, Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche ("The English Patient") as Alice is an enigma almost equal to erratic introvert Martin (newcomer Alexis Loret). He's got plenty to be troubled about, starting with the opening scenes of his happy childhood in Spain with unwed mother Jeanine (Carmen Maura) that was cut short when she sent him to live with his father, Victor (Pierre Maguelon), in southwestern France.

Excising a stretch of narrative and inserting it later, Techine instead jerks us to a fateful moment 10 years later, with grown Martin fleeing Victor's house and literally heading for the hills. On Martin's aimless, homeless tramp, which includes his robbing of a local farmer's henhouse, he is arrested and released. He makes his way to Paris and the possible safe harbor of his gay half-brother Benjamin (Mathieu Amalric).

Benjamin lives with "girlfriend" Alice in a close but nonsexual relationship. Transforming from an awkward, moody newcomer who miraculously (well, it is Paris) scores a modeling career into a blossoming beau who sweeps up Alice with his passion and heterosexuality, Martin is living on the edge emotionally. We find out why during Martin and Alice's long sojourn at a lonely Spanish seashore, where he swims all day and she hangs out, occasionally writing, with Benjamin.

With the help of a long flashback, we get the big picture squared away. Not surprisingly, Martin is a tormented soul who requires special handling, while Alice goes through the scary business of getting pregnant by a guy who may be suicidal, homicidal and, at the very least, masochistic. The film plays out in two hours of good and not-so-good times, scoring strongest during its middle chapters concerning the evolving triangle of Alice, Martin and Benjamin, with the terrific Amalric stealing his scenes.


USA Films

October Films

Presented by Alain Sarde

Credits: Director: Andre Techine; Screenwriters: Andre Techine, Gilles Taurand; Producer: Alain Sarde; Director of photography: Caroline Champetier; Production designer: Ze Branco; Editor: Martine Giordano; Costume designer: Elisabeth Tavernier; Music: Philippe Sarde. Cast: Alice: Juliette Binoche; Martin Sauvagnac: Alexis Loret; Benjamin: Mathieu Amalric; Jeanine: Carmen Maura; Victor: Pierre Maguelon. MPAA rating: R. Running time - 123 minutes. Color/stereo.


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