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Coeurs is Alain Resnais 16th feature which he made at the age of 84. This film proved that Alain Resnais still has the same master within, he had in the 1960's. His brilliance and imagination sure didn't stop at Coeurs which he proved in 2009 by making Les herbes folles (Wild Grass), and apparently he is once again making a new film. Alain Resnais has always worked with incredible writers such as Marquerita Duras and Henri Laborit and this time his film is based on an English play 'Private Fears in Public Places' by Alan Ayckbourn. Coeurs is no blind visualization of an already-told story but an insightful look at the world of today, relationships, modern society and the conventional genre of romantic comedy.
There is something incredibly sweet and beautiful in this simple storyline which, at first sight, might seem conventional and stereotypical with regards to romantic comedy. But the way Resnais builds dramaturgy is anything but conventional; as we move from brief scene to another and observe the situations where the characters come across with each other. The themes of the film are common for the director - intimacy, loneliness, disappointment and getting old, but new are the postmodern criticism for the mass culture of television, and a superior way of dealing with the tragicomic fantasies of his characters.
Coeurs features three of Resnais' standard actors (Sabine Azéma, André Dussollier and Pierre Arditi) but new-comers in the world of Alain Resnais are an Italian actress Laura Morante and a French woman Isabelle Carré. Dussollier plays a bitter real-estate agent Thierry who has a dynamic, fundamental Christian colleague Charlotte (Sabine Azéma). Lionel (Pierre Arditi) is a slightly frustrated bartender who listens to the worries of Dan (Lambert Wilson) whose relationship isn't going so well with Nicole (Laura Morante) who tries to find a perfect home for her and Dan. Gaëlle (Isabelle Carré) is Thierry's sister who desperately tries to find a date, and eventually becomes acquainted with Dan.
The film has six protagonists and it wraps around certain threads of blind chance that seem to pull the characters together. It's a film about six people who come across with each other without really meeting or knowing each other. Each scene features a situation between two characters and we are quickly thrown from one situation to another but still never lose our track of what is going on. I think Resnais has found new emotional scales in Coeurs, which he didn't have before in his political films (1960's) nor in his "philosophical" films (1980's). The viewer actually cares, and has sympathy for the characters portrayed - which is too rare these days. I love, and prefer, the earlier films by Resnais so I mean no disrespect for them. This elegant story about six people remind the viewer of Resnais' classic Last Year at Marienbad (1961), and a bunch of other films by him, for example, Mon oncle d'Amérique (1980) - where there is a certain ensemble of protagonists.
Coeurs is a very Resnaisian film in all its histrionics. The film is entirely filmed in a setting that is clearly a studio. For instance, there are no roofs which is shown to the viewer in bird perspective shots. In the real-estate office there are movable glass walls, and we see that the characters don't notice it, but the camera shows it to us
fiction knows that it's fiction, the movie admits that it is only a
movie. Strong pastel shades also characterize Coeurs - pink, orange and white walls, and lights.
The characters make different interpretations of the same theme of sad melancholy life and the inability of man to see. The span of these themes is incredibly wide; from tragic (Lionel and his cruel father) to pathetic (Thierry and Gaëlle). Snow is the most surreal, Resnaisian, element of the film. Throughout the film it snows - everywhere. Resnais had already used snow flakes in L'Amour a Mort where he wanted to tell about life, death and hereafter. But in Coeurs the snow represents a wintry state of mind and the benumbed emotional lives of the characters.
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