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Martin (Charles Berling) a French philosophy teacher whose marriage has recently broken up, is entering a mid-life crisis. Hanging out in a seedy bar one night, he meets a painter named Meyers (Robert Kramer), who invites Martin to visit him at home. But when Martin arrives at Meyers' apartment a couple of days later, he finds that the painter died suddenly the previous afternoon. But Cécilia (Sophie Guillemin), is there, a teenager who was Meyers' regular model - and his lover. Martin is soon obsessed with Cécilia.

"Is L'Ennui a romantic comedy? Since it concerns two wacky characters who in some sense love each other, I'd have to say yes, though the combination of explicit sex and relentless rationalism may not appeal to Meg Ryan fans. The lovers in question, a perverse and intractable pair, are superbly embodied by Charles Berling and Sophie Guillemin - and I use the term 'body' advisedly. Cécilia's plump, rounded naked body (or Guillemin's) is at the centre of this film: it's the one thing Martin knows about her for sure, and it's effectively contrasted with his own gaunt, faintly reptilian elegance. Among other things, the film is an intriguing exercise in shifting point-of-view. Sometimes we assume that blank-faced, equable Cécilia is the real enigma, and we identify with Martin as he incessantly badgers and questions her, trying to figure out what makes her tick. Other times, the film seems to be mainly about Martin cracking up, and Cécilia is just a trigger for his madness. Accordingly, we move back and forth between seeing things from Martin's perspective and observing his behavior from a distance. Two shot patterns in particular recur: fragmented, hectic close-ups, as in many of the sex scenes (echoing Meyers' paintings); and lengthy unbroken pans that follow the couple down the street, placing Martin's all-consuming obsession against the background of a larger world. Throughout, part of the aim is to hang onto some of the raw, unprocessed quality of real life: hence even at the end nothing much gets resolved. As the title suggests, monotony, lack of progression, is crucial. Cécilia is bored by Martin's interrogations, Martin is bored by Cécilia's apparent simplicity, and both seem caught in an obsessive loop, never really coming to know or understand each other. But it's the film's willingness to embrace this obsession - with all its frustrations and absurdity, plus the intense sexual energy that powers it - that makes it a compelling romance of sorts (and not a totally pessimistic one)."
Jake Wilson

"There is a funny scene in L'Ennui where Martin, in growing desperation, smashes a phone against the wall, only to rush off and find another phone with which to immediately call back his elusive lover. The scene captures the oddly pathetic humour of a man obsessed, and indeed phones play a strong role in the entire film, as does tireless interrogation, deep suspicion and knowing participation in one's own desperation (as a philosopher, Martin is profoundly pedantic). Once his interest is piqued in the dead artist's model, Martin cannot help projecting his own ennui onto Cécilia, nor can he realise his own emptiness is being questioned. The pleasingly direct ambiguity of Cécilia, whose clothes plonk onto the floor as soon as she walks into Martin's flat, is reminiscent of the classically literary femme fatale like Henry Miller's Mona, or any of Renoir's subjects. The balancing role played by Martin's ex wife is merely another canvas for his obsession, and he is tirelessly tactless in his detail. A film about obsession and boredom ultimately takes on some of those qualities, and beside the consistent pacing and abrupt punctuation of rushes to the phone, and indeed some quietly simple cinematography, there is ultimately not a lot in L'Ennui to connect with beside a story of one man's inability to connect and importantly relate to his lover or the people in his life. Which is of course the point, and Cedric Kahn has done well to transpose this theme from Moravia's tale of bourgeois listlessness into modern Paris."
Rino Breebaart

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L'ENNUI (R 18+)

CAST: Charles Berling, Sophie Guillemin, Arielle Dombasle, Robert Kramer, Alice Grey Maurice Antoni

DIRECTOR: Cedric Kahn

PRODUCER: Paulo Branco

SCRIPT: Cedric Kahn Laurence Ferreira Barbosa from the Alberto Moravia novel


EDITOR: Yann Dedet

PRODUCTION DESIGN: François Abelanet



AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 11, 2000 (Melbourne & Perth); May 18, 2000 (Sydney)

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