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Academy Award(r) -winners Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) and Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) are lovers locked in the grip of sexual obsession. Obsession so strong it drinks passion, breathes fire and consumes everything and everyone it touches. Academy Award(r) - nominated Director Louis Malle (Atlantic City) peels back the layers of one family's tragedy to reveal a middle-aged man (Irons) and his son's fiancée (Binoche) entangled in an intensely erotic affair that is as irresistible as it is destructive. Electrifying performances by Irons, Binoche, and Academy Award(r) -nominee Miranda Richardson as Irons' tortured wife, highlight this riveting portrait of an ordinary man, transformed by desire and willing to pay any price for his passion.
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The story unfolds in absolutely horrific fashion, complete with the graphic portrayal of the passion that becomes the only thing at the center of his life. You watch with a mix of titillation and disgust at the downward spiral. For a long time, I could not understand the Binoche character: she seemed like a doll, an empty vessel for pleasure with no sexual boundaries while protecting her inner self. Then I realized that, I believe, she felt so empty and "damaged" that she needed to fill the space through sex; unstable by nature, she would be disastrous as an investment in life, but with the ability to throw herself into sex with total passion. A new kind of femme fatale. Binoche makes her extremely subtle and enigmatic.
As always with Malle, there are many levels on which the film can be viewed, an extraordinarily rich viewing experience that can be viewed many times, that is, if you can tolerate the pain and catastophe. The acting is absolutely first rate and endlessly evocative in the way cinema can offer a window into life is seconds of an expression. It is true art.
Recommended with enthusiasm and an equal measure of revulsion.
I saw the movie 14 years ago, when it was heavily criticized for the sexual scenes, the nudity, and the lack of dialogue. I loved it then and I come to love it even more now.
In the book, the focus was on the emotional struggle that the main male character (Stephen Fleming) was going through. He lived all of his life being the good family man, good provider, simply playing it safe by the rules, until he meets Anna, the mysterious girl friend of his son. That's when he looses control and gets torn apart between his strong desire to have that woman and his sincere love to his kids.
Anna would strike you as the cold, mysterious, kind of evil person who might have some emotional side to her, but it's focused on her selfishness and total consumption into her own emotional damage.
Now, when Jeremy Irons is playing Stephen, and Juliette Binoche is playing Anna, the story was taken to a different level, where dialogue is not needed much to show the development of the characters.
Binoche with the short hair cut, innocent yet very pretty face, and piercing looks is definitely making Anna the irresistible, mysterious, semi evil woman.
Irons simply can show with his eyes the entire struggle and pain that Stephen is going through; I don't think any other actor could've played that role.
The sexual scenes were way deeper than mere sexual attraction. I don't understand why they were criticized that much over the years, while the porn industry was blooming. The love scenes mostly focused on the two actors' faces and didn't show much skin as critics would say. The love making didn't focus on sex as much as on the desire of that man to bosses that woman in every way, and on the total physical submission she gave him, while at the same time she didn't give him her whole self.
I don't want to ruin the plot for any body who's interested in watching the movie, but try to focus on Irons' facial expressions, on the scene after the public love making in France where he goes back to his room and lays crying on the bed, on the scene when he's naked holding his son, and on the final scene and its details("...she was no different than any body else").
With two great actors like Irons and Binoche, you might be distracted from the other great actors like Martin (the son), Ingrid (the wife). Great movie, great music, great director BUT if you are a righteous person you might not like it; if you are a religious righteous person you will hate it (it might put you in confrontation with some puzzles about life and human limitations, that I highly doubt righteous people will understand).