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As another reviewer before me, I also can't believe how badly people
are writing about this film here. I adore Francois Ozon and I've seen
all his feature-length films. This one seems quite different from the
others (except, maybe, Sous le sable) and it's as low-key as Ozon could
ever get, but it is still an excellently scripted and played film that
makes one think.
I didn't consider the backwards structure to be gimmicky at all, it rather helped the viewer to better make out flaws early in the relationship. There is betrayal in each one of the episodes, starting with the last (chronologically the first) one. The film shows us that even little egoisms and uncharitable behavior can lead to grave consequences - in this case, to divorce. The woman, Marion, seems to be easily led anywhere, not having enough standing of her own, while the man, Gilles, seems to be egoistic, cowardly and sometimes just simply sex-crazed.
I think the structure rather helps us to understand the characters better, since we have already seen the consequences of their actions and attitudes. I didn't consider the large gaps between (and also in) the episodes to be a problem - they only acknowledge that the whole story can never be told because it is made up by every single moment between their first meeting and the last time they see each other. These episodes can only indicate what went wrong, they cannot explain - that would be too simplistic.
The actors were excellent, especially Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. The way the looks of the main characters changed during the film (becoming more and more youthful and fresh as the story goes backwards), was also excellently done.
The parallel love stories (between Gilles's brother and his young lover, and between Marion's parents) shed some more light on the relationship between Marion and Gilles - also on what might have gone wrong.
This film should probably be required viewing for every couple wanting to get married... :-) Not in order to deter them, but rather to make them aware of the pitfalls of relationships and married life.
This is one of the most resonant films I have seen for a long time. Superb performances by both leads and a simple but very effective structure. To begin at the end and move backwards to look at moments, glimpses, fragments is such a simple device yet devastatingly effective as demonstrated with such expertise by Ozon here. I found certain moments deeply moving such as the physical assault on his wife. It seemed like a desperate attempt by the husband to try and claim power over his wife. But we know that the relationship is in the final throes of death. I loved the scene on the wedding night when she looks at her mother and father who we have previously seen rowing, just dancing alone at the reception. Somehow you know that their relationship will last and there is hope for them. The adultery the wife commits seemed to work although at first I thought it too contrived. Her pleasure on seeing her husband and love for him as he sleeps when she creeps back into the room felt very real. For me however the most beautiful and most moving sequence was the end when they first meet. It was wonderfully set up and echoed real life so well. It is always a series of events, a chain that causes all the pieces to fall in the right place and the couple to meet. It such a subtle scene when they talk on the beach as we know they are about to fall in love. When they walk into the golden sea bathed in light the two are literally becoming one as they embark on a new chapter in both their lives. The beauty of the scene is made more powerful by the conflicting emotion in our minds as we know that this love will be destroyed. How can something so perfect ever diminish? What Ozon is saying is that all things must die, that surely it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Go and see this film. It is marvellous.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How to tell the life of a couple nowadays? This is what François Ozon
tried to study in his new feature-length movie, "5x2" (2004). I went to
see it at the movies on the first day of its release and it didn't
disappoint me at all. Ozon chose to focus on five precise moments in
the life of a couple. Originality, these moments are related backwards!
It means that the film begins with the divorce between the two main
characters and it ends with their meeting. Ozon declared that he was
influenced by a TV film made by Jane Campion a couple of years ago
which told a friendship between two young girls. Campion's work began
with their separation and it ended with their meeting.
It is significant to notice that in Ozon's cinema, the couple never remains stable. In "Under the Sand" (2000), Bruno Cremer disappeared leaving Charlotte Rampling hopeless. In "8 Women" (2002), Catherine Deneuve wanted to leave her husband for her lover. In "5x2", the couple formed by Gilles (Stéphane Freiss) and Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) isn't an exception to the rule and presents a dull and bitter image. From the beginning (it means at the end of the film!) their relationship is bound to fail. There's a cue pronounced by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi before they are going to swim: "We shouldn't go and swim in this part of the sea. It is dangerous". This "part of the sea" can be taken for a connotation of their forthcoming tormented love life.
Then to tell their slow but inevitable disintegration, the director preferred to leave low-key several parts of dialogs or sequences. There are 2 examples to prove it. Gilles doesn't attend Marion's childbirth and we really don't know why. A sign of cowardice? Maybe... On another hand, in the first step of the movie when they are in the hotel room, Ozon lets us suggest that they have both a lover which may have caused their divorce (to notice that in this step, when Gilles tries to have sex with Marion, it can be taken for a hopeless try to reform the couple). It could mean that Ozon's screenplay remains unfinished. Besides, he once declared that he hated writing and his scripts were nearly always unfinished. But, in reality he plays with the spectator once again. Ozon wants him to take part in his movie as much as possible the following way: it is to him to formulate ideas or hypotheses that are likely to explain the ambiguous points scattered throughout the movie.
Furthermore, the movie contains several details that speak volume about the progressive disintegration of the couple. The beginning of the movie shows us a bearded Stéphane Freiss with the disenchanted air and a pale, sad Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi. Ozon also put in a lot of effort in the light. The beginning of the movie takes us to rather dark rooms while the end presents shiny landscapes.
At last, we really can't say that Gilles and Marion form a united couple. During their wedding night, Marion spends the night outside with a stranger and the fact that Gilles doesn't attend his wife's childbirth nearly causes an argument between Marion and her parents. So, Ozon made somber two events which are in general happy ones.
Even if the originality that had secured François Ozon's reputation is less pronounced in his new movie (except as I previously said in the order of these five moments), "5x2" is a new success in this genuine film-maker's work who doesn't seem to be out of inspiration. Let's hope it lasts!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, so the reverse story-telling is a gimmick, and not even a new one,
though it undeniably heightens the complexity and surprises of
Gilles+Marion's "love story". But in 5x2 -- a vivisection of modern
marriage -- Ozon's fans won't be let down. His trademarks are there:
the fascination/disgust with romantic love, marriage and family life
(q.v. his entire filmography!); the unconventional sex scenes; his
talent for creating wonderful female characters; his gift with actors
(everybody's fine in 5x2, but Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is a knock-out);
and his ability to skilfully integrate image, dialog, music, drama and
5x2 is about the (im)possibility of love, marriage and family life in the 2000s. All couples are troubled: the protagonists Gilles and Marion; Gilles and former girlfriend Valérie; Marion's parents (who at the end/ start of the film, no longer speak to each other); and the gay couple (Gilles' elder brother and his very young lover), who are loving and tender but lead mostly independent lives and don't have sex (with each other, that is). In 5x2, love and sex are sharply distinct: Marion & Gilles are constantly avoiding sex, and the only time Ozon actually shows them at it is in the desperate post-divorce "rape" scene. In another scene, Gilles talks about the night he "proved" his love for Marion when he indulged in a bi-sexual orgy at her request (she watched but didn't join in). Gilles' ex-girlfriend Valérie is only turned on by the thought of Gilles cheating on her. We are told that the "happy" gay couple have a platonic relationship. And the only time we hear "je t'aime" in the film is from Marion to a totally drunk Gilles -- who's asleep and can't hear her -- right after cheating on him on their wedding night with a total stranger.
Ozon includes long scenes of divorce and marriage rituals. He wants us to pay particular attention to contrast between the misleading simplicity of a marriage bond and the labyrinthine complexity of a divorce contract-- as if saying that something must be wrong with an institution that evolves from the brevity of a "fidelity, support and care" vow at the wedding ceremony to the intricate, endless clauses involving division of properties, alimony, insurance, children's custody, visiting rights, etc at the divorce procedure (not to mention the need for lawyers!).
Whether you'll like (or dislike, or remain indifferent to) 5x2 will probably depend on your own love-life experience and your (dis)belief in romantic love, marriage and family life. This is crucial in your interpretation of the last (first) scene at the Italian resort: if you're an optimist/romantic, you'll be sensitive to the eternal magic of falling in love, no matter if it may eventually bring suffering; if you're cynical/sarcastic, you'll perhaps giggle at the postcard scene of two people falling in love out of boredom and loneliness spiced up by a beautiful scenery, only to be inevitably crushed by the bleak reality of marriage and family life -- please notice that the last time we see Marion and Gilles happy is at their wedding party.
The soundtrack includes great Italian love songs from the 1960s ("Ho Capito che ti Amo", "Una Lacrima sul Viso", "Mi Sono Innamorato di Te" etc): these are some of the most shamelessly romantic lyrics ever written, spelling out for Marion and Gilles the feelings they don't know how to articulate to each other (or to themselves). 5x2 ends with Paolo Conte's "Sparring Partner", and we can see Ozon slyly winking at the audience: he's closing a movie about the difficulties of marriage with a song that compares married people to, well, "sparring partners".
Though there are undeniable similarities to Staley Donen's "Two for the Road", 5x2 looks to me as a turbinated, updated Rohmerian "Moral Tale": Ozon creates a similarly masterful mix of drama and irony, using similarly arbitrary twists of love and fate on similarly self-absorbed characters, recalling Rohmer's classic lesson on how vacation and lovely landscapes can push romantic buttons in all of us (think of "Le Genou de Claire", "Pauline à la Plage", "Le Rayon Vert", the 4 seasons Tales, etc). We can thank our favorite Gallic saints that, given Ozon's talent for drama, he's such a playful, cool, witty guy, who welcomes both romantics and cynics in his scripts as well as in his audience.
The 'reverse chronology' format, that has now been tried and tested a
few times, will perhaps one day become as unshockingly acceptable as
the more prosaic use of 'flashbacks'. Both involve non-linear
storytelling, and both attempt to grab audience attention by time
distortions. Flashbacks are now so commonplace within mainstream films
that the 'purist' Dogme movement banned them altogether being so
structurally clichéd and rarely justified. So when Ozon's 5 x 2 tells a
love story about two people in five chapters, but starting with the
last chapter and working forward, is he using a valid artistic device
or just being gimmicky? In the opening scene, our loving couple (Marion
and Gilles) are finalising the details of their divorce. Afterwards
they have a last-fling sexual bout which takes an unpleasant turn.
Flipping back scene by scene, we next see them as a loving married and
entertaining visitors, chatting away about fidelity and sexual deviance
and again we see a slightly unpleasant turn perhaps the seeds of the
divorce that we already know will happen. In each chapter we follow the
love story to earlier and earlier stages.
In Irreversible, another French film, the reverse chronology format was used to shock, to take us on a journey from hell to heaven. In Memento it was used to heighten suspense and provide the basic device that the mystery revolved upon we never knew more than the main character about what had happened before.
In 5 x 2 the effect is to highlight small things that go wrong in a fairly ordinary relationship. If it were a gradual decline from better to worse they might have gone unnoticed, but our starting point being divorce our interest in why things went wrong is perhaps more acute.
The other thing that marks out this slightly unusual film is the remarkable acting range shown by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (who won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her portrayal of Marion). We see not only an incredible range of emotion but many sides to her character. The finely nuanced performance draws attention to things like the person a woman may be to her husband whilst still have a secret side, or her ability to put on a brave face when crying inside. The observation of a range of emotional and sexual explorations is done with the attention to detail that seems so intrinsic to much French cinema: the characters really seem to feel what is happening as if there is no camera on them at all. Sadly 5 x 2 however may not have the shock value of film like Irreversible or the sugar-candy feelgood factor of films like Amelie: mainstream foreign audiences like their French movies to nevertheless fulfil certain passive entertainment criteria, which this thinking and understated movie obstinately refuses to do.
At 5x2 we see the course of a relationship from end to beginning. The
reverse chronology of events is now a well established editing
technique which almost always works and intrigues the viewer.
The personalities of both Marion and Gilles are established fairly quickly, but the reasoning behind their actions is usually explained at a later time. In fact, this shows how well written 5x2 is, because throughout all five episodes the characters of the protagonists don't change, their behavior has changed due to actions of the other part.
Both actors deliver high caliber performances and their faces write perfectly on the screen. They do create a chemistry when needed (and a lack of again when needed). Can you believe by the way that beautiful Valeria Bruni is forty years old?
The vintage Italian music adds color to the story and Ozon shows he is an accomplished director. As the movie ends he gives us one of the most idyllic scenes ever filmed.
A French film cannot be called a "French Film" unless it does not contain all essential elements of French culture.These elements include love,sex,marriage,divorce etc.Five times two is a complete French film as it has included all of these indispensable elements in its narrative structure.This film has to be appreciated by all those who feel that French cinema has a significant air of intellectualism. By making a poetic film about 5 memorable moments of a happy couple's life,talented French cinéaste François Ozon has given us a glimpse of how emotional matters are handled by French people.Five times two can also be termed as a modern European/French film whose success rests on its actors.A mention must be made of two leading actors Stéphane Freiss and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi who make valiant attempts in the film to be true to each other.They exhibit ferocity in all of their actions whether it concerns their bitterness or sexuality.A film like this one is made with great intuition.It is for serious viewers to appreciate the efforts of the filmmaker.A good viewer will not be disappointed when he/she watches this film.
"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."
5x2 comes as a slight let-down following director Francois Ozon's
recent critical and commercial success with Swimming Pool.Ozon's
decision to structure the film in an anti-linear fashion is nothing
original and he himself admits he was influenced by Jane Campion's
little-known TV film Two Friends (1985) which used the same structure.
Ozon chooses 5 crucial scenes from the life of Marion and Gilles, a
middle-class couple with a son, Nicholas, whose married life quickly
disintegrates into divorce. Ozon begins with the austere divorce,
finishing with the moment this would-be-couple met.
The reverse structure allows the viewer to consider what went wrong and decipher why the marriage ended so bitterly. It is fairly obvious the reasons why they divorced, but Ozon and his frequent collaborator, Emmanuelle Bernhein, are as interested in the psychological worlds of these two people as their mundane reality.
The film works for the most part, but some scenes are unbelievable: Gilles's boastful confession at the party with his brother; the scene in the woods with Marion and an American tourist. These scenes undermine the subtle nature Ozon employs elsewhere. He explains too much, which isn't his style. A better edit would have made this an even better film.
As for the music, the corny 1960's Italian love songs used to close each segment are plain awful. The triviality of the songs might offer an ironic counterbalance to what is happening on screen, but the effect is of a sneering, sardonic detachment on behalf of the director. It's as if Ozon wants to dismiss every aspect of romantic culture as a fallacy.The best musical segment is at the end where Ozon's longtime composer Philippe Rombi returns some panache to the film's audio sensibilities. Special mention should go to Paolo Conte's haunting Sparring Partner which is used in the dinner scene and in the final credits.
The acting is excellent,and the closing frame is a masterstroke.But it doesn't merit that many repeat viewings as his earlier Swimming Pool did.
The plot of this movie itself is very ordinary and simple...no love triangles, no memory loss or anything...:) Two people fall in love, fall out of it (or not?...who cares...), make love, cheat, divorce - that's it. So what's so special about this movie? I must say it's that special mood that filled me after watching it. As many movies, this one postulates that life's not so great after all - people may be mean, bad things happen, everything good ends one day, but even so it's worth living and to be more specific - it's worth to love. Fact, that we see events developing backwards highlights this idea. At the end of the movie no one actually remembers the beginning (divorce) - audience is just so moved by by this beautiful, banal love story...and I must say that it should be this way always. Who cares, that love won't last forever - what's more important, is that it exists!
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