My Sex Life (1996)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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as Paul Dedalus
as Le Merou
as Mrs. Chernov
as Ivan The Student
as Spiritual Accompanis...
as Diocese Delegate
as Esther's Friend
as Frédéric Rabier
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Critic Reviews for My Sex Life
A delayed coming-of-age masterpiece and one of the great French post-New Wave films.
Audience Reviews for My Sex Life
"I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life" is a song reference that doesn't really fit here, because I think we can agree that this type of life is not really one to meddle with. If nothing else makes me disinterested about this guy's sex life, it's this film's runtime, because if this film is going to be as long as it is, then it better be covering Mathieu Amalric's Paul Dedalus character's entire life or something, because, you know, that would be so much less dull. No, this film is able to keep things going just fine throughout its course, but goodness' sake, I don't really understanding why this has to be just shy of three hours. Yeah, I was hoping that this argument better be a really momentous one, and I knew that it had to be a big one, because apparently the members of the main couple in this film have been trying to get rid of each other for about ten years, or at least that's what the synopsis and, well, this film tell me. Hey, I'm still dubious that this couple has been around for ten years, because this film plops us right in the middle of this relationship and runs about eleven years. Jokes aside, the French sure know how to experiment when it comes to cinematic storytelling, or at least Arnaud Desplechin does, because the Frenchman is not particularly known for making brief affairs, so it's really saying something that this film about affairs is his longest film. I guess it's only fitting that this film be pretty good then, and yet, while this film is thankfully three hours reasonably well spent, its title isn't its only somewhat awkward aspect.
Needless to say, this character study has more than enough time to flesh out its human-driven story, and yet, there are still lapses in full expository depth, and such moments render certain character undercooked enough for you to meditate upon their conventionalism as character types who may be generally pretty engaging, but stand to be more unique, rather than blandly familiar. Yeah, I'm going on a bit of a stretch by criticizing this film as underdeveloped, because it is pretty well-rounded on the whole, it's just that several characters are too familiar for their own good, and too undercooked in some ways for their conventionalism to be obscured by additional flesh-out, thus creating some light blows to engagement value that are, of course, quickly forgotten when engagement value takes heavier blows from such issues as atmospheric dry spells that bland things up for a few moments in this film that has plenty of moments to bland up. The film is very rarely, if ever truly dull, and is actually pretty entertaining more often than not, - as well it should be, given it's runtime - but there are more than a few dry spells, and their quantity would undoubtedly be reduced if it wasn't for this film's more expected issue, which is emphasized further by the aforementioned moments in which a generally steady clip lapses. At 178 minutes, just shy of three hours, this slice-of-life character study is "way too long", obviously with enough material to get by, but hardly as truly tight, due to excess material, as well as filler that gets so excessive that, before too long, it bonds with the narrative and comes off as aimless material. Needless to say, when filler dominates the narrative, all of the minimalism in this film's story concept goes emphasized, and the final product slips into several aimless spells, or at least repetition, which never settles steam to underwhelming state, but retards momentum nonetheless. There's something warmly inviting about this film in a lot of areas, and if these areas were more played up, the final product might have stood a chance of being unexpectedly strong, but in the end, as rewarding as this film is, there's too much that's familiar, or slow, or overblown about this epic-length non-epic of a conceptually thin character piece for engagement value to be all that firmly secured. That all being said, the point is that this film is indeed rewarding, in spite of its shortcomings, which are impossible to deny, but find a formidable challenge in shaking this film's enjoyment value, which stands secure, even when it comes to the soundtrack.
Being that there are plenty of dry spells in this film, there are, of course, plenty of moments of quietness, or at least moments where liveliness has to be kept alive by sharp dialogue, rather than musical soul, but when played up, this film's primarily classical soundtrack and Krishna Levy's original score tastefully fit and color up entertainment value, if not moments of dynamicity in tone that would have succumb to the repetition that claims quite a few areas in storytelling were it not for playfulness in music. The film's musical touches boast a lively artistry that is worth waiting for through all of the quieter spells, which are still accompanied by another, more recurring artistic touch, which is, of course, of a photographic nature, as cinematographers Stéphane Fontaine, Eric Gautier and Dominique Perrier-Royer deliver on their own distinct types of style, but at least keeping consistent in handsomely warm coloring that may not be downright stunning, but is very inviting as a recurring compliment to each one of this film's visual styles. If nothing else, this film is tastefully done, with a generally fine musical ear and a consistently sharp visual style, and such aesthetic value does a fair bit to drive this film's liveliness, but when it's all said and done, a film this simultaneously minimalist and overblown needs to deliver on effective substance if it stands a chance of rewarding. In concept, this film's story of making serious life decisions and changes in order to find a path], if a bit familiar, but taken on its own, it cannot sustain a three-hour runtime, and Arnaud Desplechin, realizing this, does all he can to bring compellingness to the execution of a worthy concept, putting together a script with Emmanuel Bourdieu that delivers on both clever dialogue (or at least I think it might be clever) and a well-rounded piece of characterization for every familiar or undercooked one, while individually turning in a directorial performance that keeps entertainment value generally adequate with a lively atmosphere, whose more restrained spots are still with there share of moments that breathe essence into what dramatic depth this film has. There's not too much dramatic weight to this film, but this is still a conceptually very human story that Desplechin may flesh out too much in a lot of places, and not really flesh out enough in a few other places, but generally takes plenty of time meditating upon, to where you get a genuine sense of progression and development in this character piece are further sold on you by the portrayers of the characters who drive this opus. Featuring dramatic character shifts that are more like processes than breakthroughs, this film doesn't offer terribly strong acting material, yet every member of this hefty cast of mostly pretty talents (Marion Cotillard has a [*cough*top*cough*less*cough*] cameo, that's how pretty these female cast members are) has his or her own kind of distinct charisma that commands your attention, while the occasional subtle dramatic note helps in reinforcing human depths within this layered character piece. In terms of quantity, there's aren't a whole lot strengths to this film, as surely as there aren't a whole lot of flaws, but there still more strengths than flows, and they sure do count, gracing this film with inviting warmth, charm and compellingness that prove to be considerable enough to power the film as a rewarding investment of three hours.
To put this argument to a rest, in spite of undercooked characterization spots that allow you to momentarily meditate upon familiarity within this film's driving characters, and bland spots in atmosphere that allow you to meditate upon just how overlong the often repetitious and sometimes aimless affair is, to where it cannot sustain a wealth of weight, there is enough tastefulness within the classical soundtrack, score and warmly handsomely, stylistically dynamic cinematography, and value to the substance, emphasized by clever writing, generally lively direction and charismatically convincing acting to keep compellingness well-secured enough for "Comment je me suis disputé... (ma vie sexuelle)", or "My Sex Life... or How I Got into an Argument" (Whether it's in French or English, this film's title is a mouthful) to stand as a rewarding character study that engages time and again throughout its gratuitously sprawling course.
3/5 - Good
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