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Bernard Coudray (Gerard Depardieu) and his wife Arlette (Michèle Baumgartner) live happily in a cottage in the country with their small son Thomas (Olivier Becquaert). But his life is thrown into turmoil when Bernard's former lover Mathilde Bauchard (Fanny Ardant) unwittingly rents the neighbouring house with her husband Philippe Bauchard (Henri Garcin). Bernard and Mathilde are both haunted by the past and start to meet again secretly but know the situation is impossible. Only Madame Jouve (Véronique Silver), who manages the local tennis courts and who was crippled in an attempted suicide 20 years earlier, seems to understand.

Review by Louise Keller:
An intriguing story about obsessive love, Francois Truffaut's The Woman Next Door is as compelling as its picturesque Grenoble setting. It seems like a simple story at first. It's about two neighbouring houses: one is occupied by a happily married couple, the other is about to be rented by newly weds. The houses are made of everlasting stone but the emotional state of its inhabitants is far less durable. 'She's the kind who likes to borrow trouble,' Gerard Depardieu's Bernard says of Fanny Ardant's Mathilde, who has just moved into the house next door. His reluctance to be friendly with his new neighbours becomes quickly established - Bernard and Mathilde used to be lovers.

It starts with a phone call but he doesn't want to talk. They run into each other at the supermarket and then they kiss in the carpark. Soon they are making love in a hotel room - not once, but on a regular basis. 'Love affairs must have a beginning, a middle and an ending,' Mathilde tells Bernard. But emotions are not so easily structured and their love affair is passionate and irrational. 'With us, it's always all or nothing.' Depardieu and Ardant are wonderful together and their Bernard and Mathilde exist in a bubble reserved only for them. Lust in the afternoons and lies in the evenings . . .

Truffaut creates claustrophobic tension as Bernard and Mathilde's respective spouses become involved. Cleverly structured, the story is told by Madame Jouve (sympathetically played by Véronique Silver), the cripple who manages the tennis club and who knows everybody's business. Truffaut delves deep into the crevices of love's dark corners, canvassing issues about perception and the fundamental understanding about a relationship. It's gentle, absorbing, intense and devastating as love self destructs. This was Truffault's second film with Depardieu and the first of two with Ardant, his future wife. Its message shouts out that love is everything. As Mathilde says: 'Songs tell the truth. They say Don't Leave Me; Broken-hearted Me; I'm Alone Because I Love you; You're Nobody till Somebody Loves You...'

DVD special features include a commentary with Fanny Ardant and Gerard Depardieu and there's a wonderful interview with Ardant who talks not only about the film, but about her childhood, influences, career and the impact of love.

Published June 19, 2008

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The Soft Skin
Two English Girls
Jules and Jim

(France, 1981)

Femme d'à côté, La

CAST: Gérard Depardieu, Fanny Ardant, Henri Garcin, Michèle Baumgartner, Roger Van Hool, Véronique Silver, Philippe Morier-Genoud

PRODUCER: François Truffaut

DIRECTOR: François Truffaut

SCRIPT: François Truffaut, Suzanne Schiffman, Jean Aurel

CINEMATOGRAPHER: William Lubtchansky

EDITOR: Martine Barraqué

MUSIC: Georges Delerue

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 1.66:1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary with Fanny Ardant and Gerard Depardieu, interview with Fanny Ardant (1986), Truffaut trailer collection


DVD RELEASE: May 31, 2008

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