TORONTO -- When Jean-Luc Godard famously remarked that all movies should have a beginning, middle and end but not necessarily in that order, he probably did not realize that several generations later so many would take him at his word. Ever since Harold Pinter's play Betrayal, a number of plays, movies and TV films have created a dramatic splash by telling a story backward. The latest exercise, Francois Ozon's 5X2 (Five Times Two), presents five significant scenes in the life of a married couple told in reverse order from their divorce to initial infatuation. It can be said that this device does yield a glimmer of explanation about why the couple split up, but only a glimmer.
Despite the lack of stars, Ozon's name probably ensures theatrical exposure in North America, but the film is too minor to attract the crowds that saw his films 8 Women or Swimming Pool.
The strongest and most curious episode of the film written by Ozon and Emmanuele Berenheim is the first. A judge reads the divorce papers to a downcast Parisian couple, Gilles (Stephane Freiss) and Marion (Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi). After they sign the papers, they retreat to a bare-bones hotel room for one last tryst in bed. Why either would want to do this -- it apparently is Gilles' idea -- is never explained. Afterward, he asks if she would like to take another stab at the relationship. She turns and walks out the door for good.
Next we see the couple entertain Gilles Gay' brother (Antoine Chappey) and his new and much younger boyfriend (Marc Ruchmann). After dinner, Gilles is compelled to recall the time he cheated on Marion in front of her at an orgy.
Then, at the premature birth of their son, Gilles inexplicably cannot bring himself to visit his wife in the hospital. We also meet Marion's bickering parents (veteran actors Francoise Fabian and Michael Lonsdale).
In the first three scenes, Gilles comes off as such a jerk we wonder why Marion sticks by him so long. In the penultimate scene, at what should be their happiest moment, the wedding, we learn that Marion betrayed him that very night with a stranger.
The final episode has the couple getting to know each other at an Italian resort where she has come alone and he arrives with his then-girlfriend (Geraldine Pailhas) of four years.
So a betrayal on the part of each was the germinating seed for the marriage. But this doesn't, of course, explain the marriage's failure. Ozon says he isn't after an explanation, which is fair enough, but none of the scenes provides much food for thought. Played backward or forward, these episodes, while not dull, arrive without preamble or motive and offer little insight into the difficulties of all love relationships.
Tech credits are fine, but it might have been fun if Ozon had played each sequence in a different cinematic style.
Director: Francois Ozon
Writers: Francois Ozon, Emmanuele Bernheim
Producers: Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
Director of photography: Yorick Le Saux
Production designer: Katia Wyszkop
Costumes: Pascaline Chavanne
Music: Philippe Rombi
Editor: Monica Coleman
Marion: Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi
Gilles: Stephane Freiss
Valerie: Geraldine Pailhas
Monique: Francoise Fabian
Bernard: Michael Lonsdale
Christophe: Antoine Chappey
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 90 minutes
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