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 NB: The date of this film has changed from the originally published material. Leslie Howard, The Man who Gave a Damn will now be shown on 14 January, 2018

22 October, 2017

Un Coeur en Hiver                       

France 1992

Director: Claude Sautet 

Cert : 15                                                    105 Minutes

In addition to being employer and employee, Stéphane (Daniel Auteuil) and Maxime (André Dussollier) share an intimate friendship. Stéphane works for Maxime at an exclusive Paris violin repair shop. One evening, while the two are at dinner, Maxime announces that he has fallen in love with a new client, Camille Kessler (Emmanuelle Béart). The affair is so serious that Maxime has left his wife and intends to move in with Camille. Upon meeting, Stéphane and Camille are immediately intrigued by each other. Yet, even as Stéphane fights to maintain his own emotional equilibrium, for the first time in her life, Camille loses hers, and her simple attraction to Stephane becomes an obsession.

There is nothing ordinary about Un coeur en hiver. From the point that Stéphane and Camille meet, much of what happens goes contrary to expectations. Theirs is definitely not a typical tale of clandestine love. Rather, it is an examination of the price of emotional honesty and emotional isolation.

Oddly enough, it's Stéphane, the character with the most screen time, who remains an enigma to the audience. Even though we come to identify with him, and understand some of what he does, the depth of his emotions often remains unclear. The last scene of the movie explicitly reveals part of the truth, but for much about      Stéphane, the viewer must reach his or her own conclusions. Daniel Auteuil plays his role with a deft understanding of this sort of emotionally closed-off individual.

The stunning Emmanuelle Béart gives an astonishing, unaffected performance. Emotion is often displayed in the most subtle gestures, expressions, and vocal inflections. Before beginning production of Un coeur en hiver, Béart had never played the violin, but not only are her hand movements proficient, but the look of rapture on her face as she loses herself in the music of Ravel is an example of how accomplished Béart's acting style is.

In Un coeur en hiver, strong characters, intelligent writing, and exquisite performances combine to draw the audience into the film's deep, churning currents. The rich musical score is a feast for the ears, and the exceptional performances of the principals lead to several emotionally-potent moments. In the final analysis, Un coeur en hiver satisfies completely.

James Berardinelli  Reelviews


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