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AND THEY CALL THIS ... SPRING?

(ON APPELLE CA ... LE PRINTEMPS)

(FRANCE)

A Diaphana release (in France) of an Agat Films and CIE presentation in association with Arte France Cinema. Produced by Gilles Sandoz.

Directed, written by Herve Le Roux. Camera (color, Super 16mm-to-35mm blowup), Pierre Milon; editor, Nadine Tarbouriech; production designer, Patrick Durand; sound, Frederic Ullmann; assistant director, Dominique Perrier. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Tiger Awards competition), Jan. 30, 2001. Running time: 107 MIN.

Manu                   Marilyne Canto
Fanfan                Maryse Cupaiolo
Joss                   Marie Matheron
Claude                 Bernard Ballet
Paul                   Pierre Berriau
Mytch                  Michel Bompoli
Charles               Antoine Chappey
Jean                     Laszlo Szabo

Conceived by one ex-Cahiers du Cinema critic, Herve Le Roux, and patterned, with deliberate laboriousness, after the films of another, Jacques Rivette, "And They Call This ... Spring?" is a far cry from the light, lilting blend of feminist-fantasy inclinations and musical-comedy pastiche to which it aspires. Deathly calculated, with pig-headed comic projections of noble men drowning in a tide of manipulative, sex-crazed women, pic is supposed to be a comedy, but it's tough to figure out the bigger misconceptions: the cruel, spiteful characterizations of the three heroines, the soporific, one-note premise or the dreadful look-at-me quality of the baroque musical interludes. B.O. lifeline, both at home (where pic opened March 21) and offshore, looks to be as flat as any one of pic's comic devices.

You know you're in trouble when pic opens on two women -- Fanfan (Maryse Cupaiolo) and Joss (Marie Matheron), who have been having an affair -- walking out on their respective husbands and moving in with Fanfan's sister, Manu (Marilyne Canto). And that's supposed to have the viewer laughing hysterically.

Le Roux essays as a given that women behave erratically and are apt to engage in sexual relations with any animal, mineral or vegetable that comes down the pike.

Even Manu, who initially appears the most level-headed of the bunch -- she plays affectionately toward her husband, Mytch (Michel Bompoll), and gives off an aura of fastidious ordinariness -- is quickly revealed to be engaged in an affair of her own. If Le Roux allows Manu to retain a shred more dignity than the rest of his female characters, it's only because she's just having one affair, and it's with a man.

What's infuriating about this shorthand misogyny is Le Roux's somnambulism -- he doesn't even seem aware of his own nastiness. His women have no inner emotional lives, which makes them thankless parts for three unlucky actresses -- yet the film's tone is pitched at a level of light-hearted comic breeziness.

Pile on those arch musical set-pieces, in which the jilted husbands appear in full Three Musketeers regalia to recount the wearying events in pedantic verse. Le Roux externalizes everything in a series of implosive battles between the sexes and bed-hopping, who's-sleeping-with-whom fragments. Pic doesn't embrace feminine virtue and mystique so much as it condemns, excoriates and publicly disembowels women. Tech credits are acceptably average, with Pierre Milon's exceptionally crisp Super 16 lensing a particular plus.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:FOUNDAS, SCOTT
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Mar 26, 2001
Words:491
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