CŒURS (Alain Resnais, 2006)

One of Alain Resnais’s loveliest films, Cœurs, based on Alan Ayckbourn’s play Private Fears in Public Places, is an upclose meditation on six crisscrossing lives in Paris. Its leitmotif is sparse falling snow that appears outdoors and in, conflating the emotional distance between venues, and evoking the fragile nature of feeling and the transience of life. Snow falling outside is extended indoors by way of superimpositions, and when this expressionistic technique is erased we still see snow falling outdoors, through an open door, perhaps, converting expressionism to naturalism and leaving us a little haunted. Resnais is always humane; here, more intimately so.
     The main characters: a real estate agent; his co-worker; Lionel, a bartender at a hotel whose father is in his son’s care and is dying; the father (Claude Rich, hilariously libidinous in an offscreen performance); Lionel’s most committed barfly, whose partner had been the agent’s client in search of a new apartment—a new life—for the both of them; the barfly’s new girlfriend, the agent’s sister.      Charlotte, real estate agent Thierry’s devout Catholic co-worker, keeps giving shy Thierry tapes of a TV program, Songs That Changed My Life, but with an add-on: herself in strutting sexual get-up. Following her cue, one day at work he steals a kiss, only to be greeted by incensed virtue; impelled by worries of charges of sexual harassment, he proffers profuse apologies. In truth, if only he could see it, the one he ought to be pursuing is client Nicole (Laura Morante, wonderful), but Thierry doesn’t know that Nicole has parted ways with her barfly-boyfriend. But one is always inside and outside one’s own life, like the snow, and loneliness seems to be what one can settle on.
     The TV show provides pseudo-documentary excerpts inside Resnais’s melancholy dream.

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