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Jean-Louis and Anne have had their fling and separated. Now 20 years have passed. He is still dating various women. She is now a big time director whose most recent film was a very expensive bomb. She comes up with the idea of making a romance based upon her fling with Jean-Louis. She contacts him to gain his permission. Jean-Louis is still in racing and goes away for a desert rally while she begins filming. She finds the mood of their romance difficult to recapture in her film. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later/ Un Homme et Une Femme: Vingt Ans Déjà is one of those forgotten belated sequels, and generally hated by those who do remember it. The budget is bigger, the plot more expansive, the relationships less tentative, the stunt driving more spectacular and this time the whole film is not only in colour but CinemaScope as well, so on the surface the film only has the characters to really link it to the original, although even they've moved on in life. Aimee's character has become a film producer and, in the wake of a disastrous super-production set during the liberation of Paris that looks like outtakes from Lelouch's own Les Uns et Les Autres/Bolero, has the idea of revisiting her almost love-story in much the same way that after the disaster of Les Grands Moments Lelouch hurriedly produced the original film to stave off the threat of bankruptcy, bringing the pair back together. At first Trintignant's reluctant to give his permission, disappointed that she asked to meet him for the first time in twenty years for a business proposition rather than a romantic one, but his curiosity wins out. Naturally, romance is back on the cards, but neither that nor the film work out quite as expected The opening certainly bodes ill, with a horrendous 80s version of Francis Lai's theme giving way to an extended sequence of fast driving stunts and a scene of a power-dressed Anouk Aimee striding through a set filled with hundreds of extras, and it certainly takes a while to get over the change in style. Only one scene really harks back to the feel of the original, as Aimée's steel dissolves and she briefly becomes the young woman she was twenty years earlier as the two meet in a restaurant and talk about what could or should have been. But otherwise this is a very different animal to the original, with the two characters existing in worlds where the possibility of love is no longer everything and the director obviously torn between revisiting the first film and creating something new as if both desperate to resist the trap of nostalgia but simultaneously in thrall to it.
Although generally dismissed as a pointless cash-in, it's actually a neat exercise in semi-autobiographical directorial rumination, reflecting on the original film and what it meant for its participants (characters and filmmakers alike) as much as it does on their love story. It's not exactly Lelouch's 8½, but there's a playful sense of indecision about the piece as he throws in a real-life killing involving an escaped mental patient that seems initially gratuitous but later assumes prominence as Aimée and, by proxy, Lelouch realises that their original love story simply won't play with a modern audience and changes tack for a more sensationally commercial project. If this seems unlikely, the change in films at least has a historical precedent: Lelouch was so unhappy with Les Grands Moments that, after failing to get a distribution deal, he reputedly destroyed the negative so it could never be seen. Far more unlikely is that Aimée decides to produce her version of Un Homme et Une Femme as a musical, making this at times feel like one of Jacques Demy's darker films, although it's telling that the audience for Aimee's flop is entirely middle-aged Lelouch clearly knows who his shrinking audience is even if he doesn't always know what kind of film he needs to make to recapture a modern mass audience.
The last section, with Trintignant lost in the desert with his suicidal lover who wants to take him with her (played by Lelouch's future wife Marie Sophie Pochat while his marriage to Evelyne Bouix who plays Aimée's daughter here - was breaking up) seems like a third movie altogether. Not necessarily a bad one, more a "Where did that suddenly come from?" one, and it's this section that's the film's least satisfying, losing the playfulness and leaving you with the impression that, like the much less satisfying Les Uns et les Autres, this often feels like a series of scenes and plot strands that Lelouch wanted to film thrown together without ever quite finding a resolution. Like many of his films it's by no means a complete success, but it's also by no means the failure it's often painted as chalk this one up as an ambitious and intriguingly inconsistent miss, but one that offers a lot more of interest than some of his outright successes.
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