DVD Review: Unforgivable

STUDIO: Strand Releasing | DIRECTOR: André Téchiné | CAST: André Dussollier, Carole Bouquet, Melanie Thierry, Adriana Asta, Mauro Conte, Alexis Loret
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/4/2012 | PRICE: DVD $27.99
BONUSES: none
SPECS: NR | 112 min. | Foreign language drama | 2.35 : 1 widescreen | stereo | French with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

The films of André Téchiné  (The Girl on the Train, Wild Reeds) are never simple affairs. Complicated and unsentimental, they’re not exactly easy to like, but they’re also difficult to dismiss. The 2011 drama Unforgivable, his nineteenth cinematic offering, is no different. With a plot that seems to go nowhere fast, yet keeps you gripped for most of its 112 minutes, the film is quintessentially European in a way that will turn off mainstream American audiences but intrigue those looking for something subtly unconventional.

André Dussollier and Carole Bouquet in Unforgivable.

The story, such as it is, follows a writer of cheap but best-selling crime novels named Francis (André Dussollier, Wild Grass) who rents an isolated house near Venice while working on his next book. Francis, like the film itself, moves fast- five minutes into the film, he’s already convincing the real-estate agent (Carole Bouquet, That Obscure Object of Desire) he just met to move in with him. She (Judith) does, for reasons that (like most of the film) are never really explained. Jump ahead 18 months and this happily-married couple receives a visit from Francis’ self-destructive daughter Alice (Melanie Thierry, The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch), who quickly runs off with a small-time Venetian drug dealer, leaving daddy despondent and obsessed about her whereabouts. He hires Anna-Maria (Adriana Asta), a detective and ex-lover of Judith to find Alice, she follows them to Paris, Francis’ paranoia grows, he starts suspecting Judith of an affair, hires Anna-Maria’s juvenile delinquent son Jérémie to spy on her, he does, she catches him, they get it on, Jérémie (Mauro Conte) beats up a gay Venetian who returns the favor by killing his dog, Anna-Maria comes home ill and dies, Alice sends daddy a DVD of her and the drug dealer having sex, Judith moves out, Francis doesn’t seem to care, finishes his novel, cares again, asks her to move with him to Paris, she says yes, credits roll.

You might think such a soap-operatic plot would generate an idiotic movie, but somehow, Techine (who co-wrote the screenplay based on a novel) masterfully crafts the film into something riveting and intelligent. His stark and economic filming style is so sure of itself, the seemingly-random plot never feels arbitrary, just like the selfish, unsympathetic characters never seem problematic, even though they’re impossible to relate to. How Techine manages to produce a film so devoid of basic literary building blocks yet so cinematically solid is not easily explained; in fact, you’ll need a second viewing just to start untangling that mystery.

In Techine’s hands, Venice serves as a perfect backdrop as its canals and twisted streets mirror the emotional gulfs and internal labyrinths all our characters find themselves lost in. As one of the world’s most beautiful cities, it serves as a reminder that all the art and culture in the world provides no clues as to why people do the things they do- a perfectly European philosophy for a perfectly European film.

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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.