Dirs: Patrick Mario Bernard, Pierre Trividic. France. 2008. 97mins.
This rather frosty but nevertheless intriguing study of one woman’s descent into jealousy, which premiered in competition at Venice, is one of those well-crafted exercises that plays better in the viewing than in the recall. That’s because it’s not the story - based on Annie Ernaux’s novel L’Occupation - but the telling of it that is directing duo Patrick Mario Bernard and Pierre Trividic’s real forte. But although this cool, jazzily shot and very French second feature suffers from occasional bouts of style over substance, it also maintains its audience’s interest by pulling back cyclically from the lurid temptations of psycho-horror and plugging back into realism. And Dominique Blanc’s gelid, possessed account of a no-longer-young woman on the verge of madness is continually watchable.
But there’s no getting around the fact that her calculating character is not sympathetic by most people’s standards - and this will undoubtedly limit the film commercially. Urban stylists and jaded cineastes looking for stimulation will respond to this, but theatrical prospects oustide of France look uncertain.
Opening on blurred car headlights, the stylish intro sets the tone introducing the story as a small dot in the urban sprawl. Anne-Marie (Blanc), a well-preserved woman in her late forties, suggests to her much younger lover Alex (Guei) that they should split up: he’s looking for a commitment she’s not prepared to give, and she wants to leave him free to meet someone else. But as soon as he does, she is overcome by jealousy, only barely concealed beneath the urbane, jokey, flirty manner in which she tries to prise from the reluctant Alex - with whom she remains on friendly terms - a few details of his new flame.
When she discovers that her rival is the same age as her, the increasingly obssessed Anne-Marie begins to see her own reflection as a potential enemy - and to realise that she is slightly out of sync with it. All the while, she continues her job as a social worker, and some instinctively right scenes between her and Madame Schneider (Benoit), a depressed alcoholic, serve to earth the film in real life. Anne-Marie’s disconnection from reality is also channelled through her elegant, wired apartment, which features a ‘cyber-box’ - an anti-intruder and anti-leak monitor with CCTV facilities that slowly becomes more of a threat than a reassurance.
Though mannered, The Other One is also original in the way it overlays a potentially melodramatic tale with the reassuring urban anomie of the trains, bars, malls and car-parks where the characters live and meet. The ambient electronic soundtrack suits this detached mood perfectly, but there are some warmer tones too, both musically and visually. Among several quiet magical realist touches is a lovely glimpse of a rubbish collector holding a found photo of some unknown family up for the bus-bound Anne-Marie to see.
(33) 1 5310 3399
Patrick Mario Bernard
based on the novel L’Occupation by Annie Ernaux
Pierric Gantelmi d’Ille
Daphne and Alex Deboaisne