“Unforgivable” isn’t entirely [MOVIE REVIEW]

André Dussolier and Carole Bouquet star in Unforgivable.
André Dussolier and Carole Bouquet star in Unforgivable.

André Dussolier and Carole Bouquet star in Unforgivable.

“Unforgiveable,” the new film by the usually excellent André Téchiné, is a somewhat rambling discourse on relationships; lovingly, if curiously, set in Venice.

We meet Francis, an aging, best-selling novelist, as he is interviewed; expounding on the difficulties of relationships and the impossibility of child rearing. Francis should know, as he has several disastrous relationships and marriages under his belt and a dysfunctional relationship with an irresponsible adult daughter.

Francis arrives in Venice looking for a quiet place to write his next book. But instead of the garret he describes, he ends up in an island villa living with the real estate agent in a “love at first sight” scenario. In all his previous dealings, it was always Francis who left his relationships, either because of boredom or his disinterest in the resultant emotional demands. Here, for the first time in his life, it is he who is emotionally involved and it is Judith, the woman he soon takes as his wife, who retains something of a cool, aloof distance. Described by someone who has known her for many years, she is the one who “turns on” others but is never “turned on.” When Francis’s adult daughter, Alice, disappears, abandoning her own daughter, Francis hires a private detective despite the fact that it is evident that the married Alice has run off with a sexy, cash-poor young count who supports himself by dealing drugs. Francis’s obsession with tracking his daughter awakens a jealousy in him over his wife and he begins to have her followed as well, thereby destroying the fabric of trust upon which a relationship must be based.

Meant as a character study, Téchiné becomes mired in too many irrelevant details that take his “slice of life” story off track. Too many threads to follow result in a lack of focus that distracts the viewer from what might have been Téchiné’s discourse on the difficulties of relationships and the fatal flaws possessed by those who would possess others.

Luckily, Téchiné is blessed with an outstanding cast led by André Dussollier, as Francis. Dussollier always brings complexity and depth even when it doesn’t appear to be on the page. Witness his role as a sympathetic, but obliquely described villain in the mystery classic “Tell No One.” That as Francis, he is able to convince us of his warmth, confusion and hopeless romanticism is more a tribute to Dussollier than the script. Playing his wife whose coolness sometimes borders on frigidity, is the still beautiful Carole Bouquet. Bouquet, however, left some of her oblique and complex emotional depth on the table of her esthetician when she underwent her last Botox treatment. A word to actresses of a certain age – the forehead and brows are part of your instrument; don’t freeze them. All of the other actors, including Adriana Asti as Anna Maria, a former lover of Judith and the private investigator hired by Francis; Mauro Conte, Anna Maria’s troubled son; and Mélanie Thierry as Francis’s wayward daughter, are very good.

What isn’t very good is the meandering story that has so many points to make that it makes none. Luckily, there is a romantic ending, but how could there not be – it’s set in Venice, after all.

Opening Friday, June 29, at the Laemmle Royal.

Neely is a television production executive who also writes a blog about writers in television and film at http://www.nomeanerplace.com.

 

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