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Penelope Ann Miller,
Harry is a married writer who has an affair with a woman whose husband knows that she is unfaithful. As a result of his work, Harry has trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality leaving us to wonder whether the affair is real or just a figment of Harry's imagination. Written by
David Claydon <email@example.com>
Obscure Frankenheimer and Bates Holds Your Interest
According to some sources, STORY OF A LOVE STORY (awkward title, THE IMPOSSIBLE OBJECT is not much better), was never really released theatrically. It apparently has a short run in Spain, in France and was shown only very briefly at a US festival. Problematic though this film is, it deserves to be seen by Frankenheimer enthusiasts and fans of Alan Bates. Many far less successful films are readily available, while this 'interesting failure' remains difficult to track down.
Drawing on influences from French Nouvelle Vague and Fellini to Joseph Losey, Frankenheimer has constructed a movie that frustrates mainly in its resolution. At the end, we are simply not certain exactly what has happened. This could very well be intentional, and it definitely does not spoil the good qualities the film does possess. Claude Renoir gives the film an artistically unified look and many shots are memorably beautiful, in particular the Morocco locations. Michel Legrand, however, lets the film down with an arch-70s theme that sounds too much like an updated "Gigi". But it must be said that Legrand rises nicely to a tragic occasion when necessary. The screenplay by Nicholas Mosely, based on his novel "The Impossible Object" has humor and pathos. It's largely successful and almost makes us care what happens to these people. The film adopts a Felliniesque method of mixing reality with fantasy and dream sequences. One dream in particular, with Alan Bates in a grove of trees that have doors he can open and look into another reality, seems influenced by 8 1/2. The jump cuts and rapid juxtapositions (sometimes too obvious) are clearly derived from the New Wave school. Joseph Losey's shadow can be seen in the opening birthday party sequence and in the oddly elliptical way the relationships are presented. Most of this adds up to a very interesting film that pulls the viewer in. Yet somehow, it's all too detached (Losey again?) in a way that does not seem intentional. Frankenheimer clearly wants us to be care about these people. So why don't we? A look at casting may answer the question. On the plus side there is Alan Bates. Handsome and charismatic as he has ever been, Bates seems comfortable in this material. His acting style nicely expresses the frustrations of the character: a man who can never have "everything" he thinks he wants. Bates is at his absolute best here, and admirers of the actor should find a way to see him in it. Also very effective is Michel Auclair as the cuckolded husband, a solidly effective actor with an enviable voice. Auclair commands every scene he is given, creating strong interest in his character. Unfortunately, the female side of the quartet tends to let the film down. Dominique Sanda, while effective if a few key scenes, seems too passive, too much like a model who wishes to be an actress. She was perhaps unclear on the character's motivations, or uncomfortable with English (or poorly dubbed). As Bates's wife, Evans Evans (Mrs Frankenheimer at the time) is just miscast. It's impossible to believe she and Bates could ever have known each other, let alone been married. Frankenheimer's direction seems mostly secure in this film. Very likely, editing later removed material that could give the film more weight. The fantasy/dream sequences contain much interior information about the characters (along with numerous voice-overs that tend not to work very well). These sequences tend to fascinate (the country house garden party with its nudity and ornate costuming also recalls Fellini). At this party, we meet Lea Massari (who played 'Anna', the famously disappeared character in Antonioni's L'AVVENTURA). In the film's most memorable sequence, Frankenheimer is at his best. Bates and Sanda bring along their small baby on boating trip with Bates's three young sons. The director stirs up some high, realistic drama here. STORY OF A LOVE STORY is not some lost masterpiece, but it should not languish in obscurity any longer.
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