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With: Charles Berling, Sophie Guillemin, Arielle Dombasle, Robert Kramer
Written by: Laurence Ferreira Barbosa, Cedric Kahn, based on a novel by Alberto Moravia
Directed by: Cedric Kahn
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 122
Date: 11/14/1998
IMDB

L'Ennui (1998)

3 Stars (out of 4)

French Roles

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After walking out of Cedric Kahn's L'Ennui I got the sneaking suspicion that the picture was supposed to have been a comedy. And the more I thought about the tone of it, the more I saw that idea come together. The problem is that the content of this movie is often too unpleasant to notice an comic effect.

L'Ennui is a big obsession movie, the likes of which we haven't seen since Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962) or Josef von Sternberg's The Blue Angel (1930). The main character is writer Martin (Charles Berling) who meets a young model, Cecilia (Sophie Guillemin). She was recently posing for an artist who died after they had too much strenuous sex. Martin plagues her with questions, which she complacently answers, and soon becomes obsessed with her... Obsessed is too mild, actually. He becomes manic.

Unlike Lolita (Sue Lyon) or Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich), Cecilia is not portrayed as a man-eater. The joke is that she's so empty that Martin projects emotions onto her. It's not that she's stupid--it's just that she shows little emotion. Martin, who is never seen actually writing anything, passes his time "writing" his thoughts onto the blank page of Cecilia. Despite all this they do enjoy their sex. They're seen having lots of sex, often and in full view. (Puritans should stay away from this movie.)

Eventually Cecilia begins seeing a man closer to her own age. Martin becomes enraged, stalking her, threatening her, attacking her, and asking her to marry him. She reacts with nothingness.

L'Ennui is a difficult movie to review. I can appreciate the expert way the movie is made. It's a solid achievement for writer and director Cedric Kahn (only his third film). Everything is handled clearly and intelligently. But dealing with the horrifying behavior of Martin is difficult. French audiences may have been more willing to put up with this genius writer out of respect for artists but Americans will have little patience for his atrocious behavior. So I can only give "L'Ennui" a mild recommendation.