The Woman Next Door (La femme d'à côté) Reviews
Within its first few moments, though, is it not much clear that "The Woman Next Door" is going to revolve around such matters. Initially does it take on the form of a comedy of manners and then an erotic drama, a "Fatal Attraction" (1987) without the thrills or the mania, if you will. It stars the ever affable Gérard Depardieu as Bernard Coudray, a stereotypical bourgeois husband living happily with his wife (Michèle Baumgartner) and son in the village of Grenoble. Still not yet in the grips of the inevitable boredom that comes along with living the life of a less happy-go-lucky Mike Brady, he'd be content acting as breadwinner for the rest of his mundane life. Or so he thinks.
Things are made interesting, then, when the Coudrays get new neighbors. They are Philippe and Mathilde Bauchard (Henri Garcin and Fanny Ardant), newlyweds renting the charming house for the time being. It turns out, though, that the people next door (the woman next door, to be exact) are not total strangers: eight or nine years ago, Bernard and Mathilde were lovers, and the split wasn't amicable. Some would say that Mathilde was more in love with Bernard than he was with her, and that imbalance led to repeated bouts of volatility during their run together.
Tensions could be released by admitting the truth -- the relationships between both spouses appear to be healthy enough to take such revelations lightly and laugh them off -- but Bernard and Mathilde unwisely keep their connection a secret until it blooms into a redeveloped affair. Before long, they're inconspicuously meeting in the same hotel room nearly every weekday evening, partaking in the pleasures of each other's company to the cluelessness of their respective spouses.
All culminates in disaster, as most cinematic affairs do. But Truffaut, intriguingly, hides the obsessive nature of one of his leading characters until all hell breaks loose, a move that'd be much more affecting if the film smelled more like slow-burn suspense. But it doesn't: we can't much tell where it's going or if it wants to be an immoral romantic drama or a psychological provoker. Ardant and Depardieu's performance are effective in themselves, their chemistry flaming. But Truffaut explores his themes of obsession far too casually for a feature that begs to nurse at least a couple throbs of melodramatic grandeur. "The Woman Next Door" should be Hitchcockian, but only its character types match up with the latter's distinctive stylistics, the rest of the film's methodical output without much character or direct texture.
The ending's assuredly bold, and yet it seems to belong to a more operatic, intense film; "The Woman Next Door's" understatedness doesn't complement it. Though like a lot of minor works from great directors, everything about it is immaculate -- except the impression it leaves on us, and no artistic mastery can hide receptionary indifference.
I liked how Gerard worked as a tanker teacher on small models in Grenoble. The tennis club was an interesting social centre for the community.
Mais le poids de la famille et des enfants pèse alors peu dans ces pulsions instinctives, et le spectateur se retrouve voyeur, prisonnier intime de cette relation entre Bernard et Mathilde. Si seulement cette histoire était un peu plus intéressante, un peu poignante et dramatique, peut-être serait-ce là un voyeurisme fascinant, dérangeant. Mais non, tout se caractérise par la banalité de la chose, et il faut attendre au dénouement final avant d'enfin assister à un amour poétique et déchirant.
Ce qu'il y a de dommage, c'est que le film ne prépare pas du tout cette fin. En tant que tel, l'approche du film est presque légère, voire ennuyante, quoique quelques tentatives dramatiques aient été avortées, et cette finale, quoique excellente, est accablée d'une logique qui n'explique pas les actions des personnages.
Bernard (Gerard Depardieu, who else?) lives with his wife and child in a cozy country home. A couple moves into the house next door and, lo and behold, the beautiful Mathilde (Fanny Ardant, who later had a daughter with Truffaut) turns out to be Bernard's ex-lover from several years ago. They had an intense relationship that drove them both to the brink of madness. Bernard and Mathilde delay telling their partners about this awkward coincidence, but can't help immediately resuming their affair. This won't end well, will it?
The film is expertly directed with a classy Georges Delerue score, but there's a point where the emotional heat takes a radical jump that seems too sudden and not entirely motivated. Depardieu and Ardant don't have much chemistry, and a few flashbacks might have helped their story's impact. And Veronique Silver is fine as an older, maternal friend whose crippled leg foreshadows the danger of all-consuming desire, but she never becomes vital to the plot and draws far too much screen time. Meanwhile, the spouses of Bernard and Mathilde are underwritten and barely make an impression. Odd. With a better focused script, this could have been a great film.
watch it cos it's a truffaut. and for a young, stunning fanny ardant.