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Unforgivable

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

Unforgivable
IFC Films

There's the old screenwriter's saying that has its roots with Anton Chekhov: if you show a gun in the first act, you have to fire it in the third unless it is a French movie where you can just shrug it off.

Andre Techine's (The Witnesses, Changing Times) newest film Unforgiveable is, by these guidelines, one of the Frenchest movies ever made. It head-fakes that it will be about a missing woman, or perhaps the drug underground of a charismatic city like Venice, but it is really about fabulous (but not wealthy!) people at their vacation home having nonchalant reactions to marital infidelity, criminal behavior and death.

I say: bring it.

Andre Dussollier, one of the titans of French cinema (Google him - we'll wait here while you shout "That Guy!") stars as a blocked up 60-ish novelist looking for a place to stay in Venice. The real estate agent played by Carole Bouquet - another French ex-pat - takes him by boat out to the island of Sant'Erasmo. They bond a bit when the engine poops out and they have to row, and this is enough, I suppose for the two characters to fall in love. He asks her to marry him and, one "months later" title card later they are living together in their gorgeous cottage with a nice view of Piazza San Marco.

Dussollier's daughter and granddaughter visit, and there's some tension that only fantastic European artists can have (she's an actress) and soon she disappears. The father is obviously concerned, but everyone tells him to not be so overwrought... if she needs to galavant and be free, then that's just the way it is. Even the pre-teen granddaughter, soon picked up by helicopter by her father, seems to understand this.

As luck would have it, Bouquet's ex-lesbian lover is a private detective. She's soon hired to snoop for the missing daughter. She leaves for Paris and finds her with a local “fallen patrician” who commits the occasional art forgery here and there. (Bouquet, in addition to being an ex-gay realtor is an expert appraiser, and knows the guy.)

As Dussollier starts learning more about his new bride's past, he ends up hiring the private eye's son (yes, the lesbian's son) who is recently out of jail to spy on his wife. Even though she's old enough to be his mother, the confused kid (whose known for beating up gay cruisers on the Venetian streets) falls for her. (Carole Bouqet's still got it – if you don't know the name, you know her legs and derriere from the poster of the 1981 James Bond flick For Your Eyes Only.)

Y'know I could go on and on and I still wouldn't be done framing the story for you. There's a lot of soap opera to get through, but I'm not one hundred percent certain that it is the plot that is of primary interest in Unforgiveable. What will stick in my craw is the way the characters relate to one another in ways that seem completely alien to me. (I mean, these are "foreign" films, right?) There are no tears for the character announcing they have terminal cancer, as if "we are all dying!" is just an understood state of affairs. After Dussollier promises to look after the private eye's newly sprung son, a disagreement leads him to clock him in the jaw. One scene later he sighs to the young man, "I'm supposed to look after you and I attack you." The kid gives him a "whaddyagonnado" look and they both share a drink. When infidelity is confirmed, there's no shouting, just nods when phrases like "it meant nothing" are offered.

What does get these people up in arms are accusations that someone is being untrue to their nature. A crime against humanism such as that can knock everything out of alignment and lead to terrible things, like being unable to write or make love. In an alternate reality where everyone eats outside with numerous bottles of wine, I can see why this would be a problem.

Unforgivable is a mess of a movie (and I don't really know what's so unforgivable) but it is the kind of I adore. It is simultaneously fantastical and deathly mundane. Were I looking to rent a piece of this life I'd sell everything I could to make the down payment.

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