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Interwoven Lives: A Complex And Satisfying French Character Piece
on November 19, 2012
The great French film director Andre Techine (Wild Reeds, Rendez-vous, The Girl on the Train) takes us to Venice with his latest character piece "Unforgivable." Marketed as a romantic thriller, I wouldn't get too caught up in that classification. The film does, in fact, display elements of many different genres including that of romantic thriller. But if you go into "Unforgivable" expecting a pulse pounding adventure, you will likely be disappointed. Instead, this is an intricate drama that weaves a number of interrelated characters together in unexpected ways. I loved this movie! Why? At any given moment, I did not know where the story was headed. The movie covers a lot of ground from a number of different vantage points but still comes together as a whole in a very satisfying way. There's a blocked author, an emotionally distant realtor, a wayward daughter, a lesbian private detective, a volatile ex-con, and a aristocratic drug dealer. That's a lot of plot points and diverse characters to juggle, but that's what I found so refreshing. Every time we veered in a new direction, it added a layer of intrigue as opposed to making the picture feel cluttered.
At the center of "Unforgivable" is Andre Dussollier as Francis. A best-selling novelist, he has come to Venice to work on his next book. In a rather abrupt introduction, the first few minutes of the movie thrust him into an instant relationship with a local realtor (Carole Bouquet). The movie fast forwards about 18 months and the couple now have a history. As the plot unfolds, Dussollier's daughter goes missing, jealousy starts to overwhelm him, and he gets close to a troubled young man who may be beyond redemption. While the story telling is always fascinating and unpredictable, the piece succeeds due to the character interactions and the way in which they overlap one another. Dussollier stays at the heart of the movie, but exploring the lives of the peripheral characters keeps things quite lively. Everyone is fundamentally flawed, but each person is struggling to feel complete. And as presented, it's all quite believable. The character flaws and foibles don't alienate the viewer, they draw you into the story. I found myself alternately rooting for just about everyone in the film.
"Unforgivable" is really well put together. You might think that the shifting viewpoint would be distracting, but I loved it. It helps, of course, that technically the film is quite accomplished. The cinematography (loved the Venice locale), score and editing are all top notch. But it's the cast that really sell it. Dussollier and Bouquet are both marvelous in very complex and multi-layered roles. Melanie Thierry (as Dussollier's daughter) and Adriana Asti (as the private eye) both make an impression with more limited screen time. But, for me, it is Mauro Conte (as Jeremie) that is the biggest revelation. Haggard, haunted, and wildly unpredictable, Conte is a true wild card. You should probably hate him, but you can get glimpses of the potential underneath his self-destructive nature. "Unforgivable" is both complex and satisfying. I was taken by complete surprise by how very enjoyable I found this experience. About 4 1/2 stars, I'll round up because it always kept me guessing. KGHarris, 11/12.