July 29, 2021

Charlotte Gainsbourg in the lineage of the great Durassian performers


This coat ! It seems to come from Proust’s locker room, which was bundled up in pelisses all year round, or from the stock of a forgotten furrier. Beaver? Nutria? Rabbit skin ? This coat is an enigma. It does not really belong to the time, the 1960s, when the non-action of Benoît Jacquot’s haunting new film takes place, faithfully adapted from a little-known and little-played play by Marguerite Duras; nor in season, an end of winter which seems rather mild, overcast, but with clearings, on the Mediterranean.

Read also: Benoît Jacquot, “With Duras, I went from aversion to passion”

Yet it is dressed in this houppelande that Suzanna (Charlotte Gainsbourg) presents herself to us. Underneath, she wears an ultra-short dress from Saint Laurent, tall boots and short hair. The pelisse and the dress seem to contradict each other. Suzanna is also an enigma. In love or not? Of her husband, of her lover? Undecided, hesitant, floating.

She went down for a few days, maybe a weekend (at Duras, the weather is blurry) on the French Riviera to join her lover, Michel (Niels Schneider). The latter borrows his look (white jeans, turtleneck, black coat and boots) from the photographer of Blow-up (1966), by Michelangelo Antonioni. Suddenly, it seems more contemporary. It is the first time that Suzanna has a lover. For her part, her husband, Jean, regularly cheats on her in luxury hotels somewhere in Chantilly or on the Normandy coast. She doesn’t seem to be really in pain – unless she hides it. She must make up her mind: Michel or Jean?

She must also choose the house in which she will spend her family vacations. Isn’t this too big? Too expensive ? The rooms, even if we only see the living room furnished minimally with a sofa and a chair, seem huge. The terrace, as big as a basketball court, overlooks the sea.

Barely sketched characters

Suzanna, Michel and Jean have no social existence. What are they doing ? What do they live on? Where do they live ? Duras is not interested in these details. This trio only exists through the feelings that drive them or that flee them. The love with Jean is gone. Michel seems free, more available. A remedy for boredom, time? They spend their nights drinking in a palace room. One can imagine the Hôtel de Paris, in Monte-Carlo. They drink wine, without specifying either vintage or vintage – and this is also new for Suzanna – like drunkards, like Marguerite Duras herself who ran on Corbières – 14 degrees anyway.

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