PLACE VENDOME (Nicole Garcia, 1998)

Nicole Garcia played Janine, who is duped out of a love affair by her lover’s lying wife, in Alain Resnais’s Mon oncle d’Amerique (1980). She is also the co-writer (with Jacques Fieschi) and director of a long, tediously involved thriller of sorts, Place Vendôme. Garcia stresses character and mood—in particular, the moody character of Marianne Malivert, a one-time accomplice to crooked diamond deals, whose husband, Vincent, commits suicide after the exposure of a shady diamond deal of his own.
     Actually, the Maliverts didn’t have much of a marriage. Vincent blackmailed Marianne into marrying him as a means of avoiding prison. As a result of this and the fact that the man Marianne loved is the one who betrayed her in that unsuccessful long-ago bad deal, Mme Malivert has sunk into defeatism and alcoholism, spending much of her time in sobering-up institutions. Moreover, Vincent leaves behind a mistress, Nathalie, a younger version of Marianne who is headed down the same road as her through the manipulation of her other lover. But why go on? You get the idea: Characters and lives echo one another in this clever film.
     There is one point of fascination to all this: a flashback sequence in which Marianne’s current voice and Nathalie’s image showing us Marianne years back unite to provide a tantalizing whiff of Vertigo (1958). Another Alfred Hitchcock classic, Notorious (1946), is drawn upon for shards and glimmers.
     The film’s centerpiece, however, is Catherine Deneuve (best actress, Venice), whose Marianne more or less pulls herself together after her husband’s death and, taking the lead where once she followed, tries unloading Vincent’s ill-gotten stones. Deneuve, as usual, does not act well, but she certainly acts a lot. A more fatuous rendering of personal redemption would be hard to imagine.

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