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The end and beginning of the love of the French couple Marion and Gilles is disclosed backwards through five moments in their lives: 1st moment: They divorce and have one last brutal intercourse without love. 2nd moment: With their relationship shaken, they have a dinner party with Gilles's gay brother Christophe and his younger mate, when an infidelity is disclosed at the dinner table. 3rd moment: The troubled pregnancy of Marion and the delivery of their premature son Nicolas, with the total absence of Gilles. 4th moment: Their wedding, when Marion commits adultery with an unknown guest of the hotel. 5th moment: When they meet each other in an Italian resort and begin their relationship. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Is Love and Marriage Hopeless? Maybe, Maybe Not, At Least in France
"5x2" is not the first film to explore a relationship by going backwards from its end to its beginning (Pinter's "Betrayal" comes to mind let alone the mystery in "Memento").
But writer/director François Ozon, aided by superb acting, uses the structure for a thoughtful and intriguing commentary on love and marriage.
The first scene sets up our curiosity as while a lawyer dryly reads the divorce agreement, letting us know the cold facts of the marriage, there is palpable electricity between the about to be ex-wife and husband such that we are not surprised when they immediately head to a hotel, as it turns out their relationship started in a hotel.
We are introduced to the complexities between this couple as their layers are played out through a sexual encounter that is open to "he said, she said" interpretations that will continue as we flashback to key points in their relationship. The other four incidents show them as parents, at the birth of their child, at their wedding and at their meeting, all played out in relation to her parents' long-time conflicted marriage and his brother's homosexual arrangements, amid other encounters.
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is so luminous as "Marion" that I'm not sure if it's her beautiful acting, as she is in turn up-tight, conflicted, sensual, fragile or aggressive, or her character who changes or that François Ozon is such a sensitive director of women, as he showed in "Swimming Pool" and "Under the Sand (Sous le sable)", that I favored her character, even if we gradually learn that she may or may not be as much of a victim as it seems and she is as much influenced by physical imperatives as he is. Stéphane Freiss plays virtually the opposite of his caring husband in "Le Grand Rôle," even if it becomes less and less clear he's the S.O.B. he at first could appear to be, or if his character experiences any changes or learns anything through serial somewhat monogamy, especially because some details in their past are just left mysterious.
The film is certainly not optimistic about love being an effective basis for a man and a woman to sustain a long term relationship and it leaves open-ended for a gendered discussion about whether that applies to the particulars of these individuals, or to them as French or as Europeans, vs. universals, as Americans would probably interpret their interactions differently than other audiences.
Certainly, in a frankly sexually mature film it's nice to see non-Hollywood bodies, of a zaftig woman and a guy without a personal trainer credit listed.
The frequent use of Paolo Conte songs on the soundtrack add to the ironic feeling surrounding the film, even if the lyrics aren't translated in the many white-on-white subtitles.
Going off into the sunset, and the cinematography and production design, from dark to light, throughout are lovely, hasn't had such an ironic conclusion since the original "Planet of the Apes."
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