Paul Dedalus is at a crossroads in his life. He has to make several decisions; should he complete his doctorate, does he want to become a full professor, does he really love his long-standing girlfriend, or should he re-start with one of his other lovers? Is he avoiding the despairing life his father can't escape from ? Written by
David Morgans <email@example.com>
Director Arnaud Desplechin originally wanted to name the movie "Comment je me suis disputé avec Éric Barbier" (How I Got Into An Argument With Eric Barbier), as a dig at former colleague Eric Barbier, also the basis for movie character Frédéric Rabier. A justice decision prevented him from using the full title, hence the ellipsis and the added subtitle. See more »
In my comments on "J'embrasse Pas", a film I much admire, I mentioned the decline of the French cinema in recent years. As an example to substantiate this, look no further than "Ma Vie Sexuelle", a work of gargantuan proportions (3 hours running time) that for me fails to transcend the commonplace it seems to be celebrating and becomes trapped in inertia. On the surface much of it is not unlike a Rohmer film. There is a group of young people living in Paris. Paul, the central character is a University tutor. There are at least three young woman in his life and he moves from one to another indecisively. There are endless scenes in cafes, in one anothers' apartments and at parties; the very stuff of Rohmer. The Master, however, would have made it last half the time with several times the degree of perception. "Ma Vie Sexuelle", on the other hand, has a curious lack of purpose, often losing its sense of directional balance. What to make of the two flashbacks to Paul's childhood that seem to add nothing to our knowledge of his character? And then there is the strange figure of Rabier, a senior lecturer whose return to the University seems to fill Paul with unease over his inadequacy to cope with professional life. Presumably he is intended to play a pivotal role like one of Iris Murdoch's "enchanters". But how can he when he is depicted as a quirky idiot who goes everywhere with a pet monkey? The sudden change of mood to black comedy when the monkey becomes trapped behind a radiator is curiously at variance with the rest of the film. There is a background score that, with its suggestion of unease, would fit better in a Chabrol thriller than these mundane goings-on. To add to all the muddled pretentiousness there is a voice-over narrative so beloved by earlier French masters such as Resnais and Truffaut but here there is nothing perceptive in what is said. It simply supplies the connections that the Taiwanese masters, Hou Xiaoxian and Edward Yang, would have demanded far more subtly we make for ourselves. The film is thus a mishmash of influences completely lacking a sense of individuality. Let those in search of titillation from a film so entitled beware. "La Vie Sexuelle" is almost puritanically staid. It belongs to a much older Wave than the New.
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