Release Date: November 16th, 2005 (NYC-IFC Center) by Cinema Guild.
The Cast: Emmanuelle Devos, Clovis Cornillac, Laura Smet.
Directed by Frédéric Fonteyne.
In French with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: Elisa (Devos) suspects her husband Gilles (Comillac) of having an affair with her younger sister, Victorine (Smet).
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Although this Gilles’ Wife takes place during the 1930’s, it could have taken place during any time period. Writer-director Frédéric Fonteyne chose the 1930’s only because there were no televisions back then to preoccupy the bored housewives. Emmanuelle Devos gives a great performance as Elisa, but the thin script doesn’t give her much to do other than question or observe. In fact, during the first ten minutes, she remains completely silent. The slow plot takes a while to get going and, even when it does, not much happens to hold your interest. If you’ve seen any other husband-cheating-on-wife movie, you know that Gilles can’t keep his adultery a secret forever. Unfortunately, there’s not enough background information about how Gilles and Elisa met and fell in love to fully understand why Elisa truly wants to hold onto him so much—most of the time he just seems like a monster. Even Victorine comes across as one-dimensional and boring, although she’s undeniably beautiful. On a positive note, the beautiful cinematography does make for some picturesque shots that range from grassy hills in the summertime to a snowy landscape with icicles slowly dripping from a frozen fountain. If only the characters and plot were more interesting and original, you would have more to immerse yourself into besides the artsy visuals.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: There’s not enough dialogue and information to fully get into Elisa’s mind to understand what she’s feeling. Her outburst in the third-act does reflect her frustration, but yet she refuses to leave Gilles. In retrospect, the final scene is very depressing, but, shot upside down, it make it slightly less depressing and surprisingly haunting. If only the rest of the film were just as haunting.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Unoriginal, unsurprising plot and minimal character development.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 4
THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite Emmanuelle Devos’ great performance and artsy cinematography, the plot and characters are simply too weak to keep you thoroughly engaged.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: VHS/DVD
The "G" Menu