Mensonges et trahisons
Mensonges et trahisons et plus si affinités...
**½/**** Image B+ Sound A- Extras N/A
starring Edouard Baer, Marie-Josée Croze, Alice Taglioni, Clovis Cornillac
written and directed by Laurent Tirard
by Travis Mackenzie Hoover Ugly flashbacks to the indie '90s are unavoidable when considering The Story of My Life (Mensonges et trahisons). This French rom-com integrates the worst of Woody Allen worship with the worst of pre-fame artist's angst: it practically screams that it wants to be taken seriously while making every effort to ensure that you don't, a tactic typical of the callow and the imprecise. But though it treats the artistic vocation as just another tony career move, the film has its charms as light entertainment, with a couple of appealing performances and some handsome design. If nothing else, The Story of My Life is proof positive that Canada has had the bad effect on Quebec export Marie-Josée Croze and not the other way around.
The inevitably blocked novelist is Raphael (Edouard Baer), who's given up the artist's life to pursue a career as a ghostwriter. His initial opus was deemed "arrogant" and "narcissistic" by a prospective publisher, pushing him into glibness and the anonymity of writing about boring celebrities' lives. Despite the prodding of his architect girlfriend Muriel (Croze), Raphael won't let down his defenses and write from the heart, and he can't see the blessings he has in front of him. Thus, when he bumps into college crush Claire (Alice Taglioni), he burns with what-you-can't-have desire--a difficult position, as she's dating his latest subject, boorish soccer star Kevin (Clovis Cornillac).
This is unfortunately one of those tormented-writer films in which literature is more alluded to than discussed: though director Laurent Tirard gets full points for proposing an athlete fond of Baudelaire, that's the extent of the literary allusions beyond vague admonitions to "be sincere." Like its accursed hero, The Story of My Life is far too glib for its own good, letting things cross into the sitcom territory whenever the action gets too hard-edged. The death of a close friend doesn't make much of an impact, for instance, and arguments between an underemployed slacker and a stuffy businessman have exactly zero satirical edge. The whole thing is so ingratiating that it nearly commits emotional suicide, wanting to seem charming in lieu of dealing with its issues.
Still, charming it is, with plenty of surface pleasures to distract you from its lack of real nerve. Quite the appealing leading lady, Croze is more relaxed and natural here than she is acting for, say, Atom Egoyan; Tagliani similarly impresses as the imposing goddess pursued by clueless Raphael. And the art department has come up with attractive hipster design elements that, while not terribly radical, are always colourful and eye-catching. Expect nothing and you might be surprised at how much you enjoy The Story of My Life, because it always aims to please. Just don't be too surprised if it evaporates in the mind minutes after you see it, because despite its pretensions to seriousness, the film is merely frothy and kind of forgettable.
The Story of My Life looks reasonably presentable on Canadian label Seville's DVD release. The 2.35:1, 16x9-enhanced image features quite good saturation--as befits the film's hipster palette, it's vivid without being too bold. Definition is not as sharp as it could be, perhaps owing to a PAL master. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is similarly fine, very potent through the centre speaker and very round and full for the constant incidental music. Surround channels are slightly underused, but given the dialogue-driven nature of the film, that's entirely understandable.
Disastrously for us Anglophones, the extras on Seville's disc are not subtitled in English. I'm assuming there's some merit to the making-of featurette (25 mins.), the deleted scene featuring Jeff with someone I presume is another old girlfriend (1 min.), and what appears to be a smartass intro featuring Edouard Baer (2 mins.)--but I cannot say whether any of this is interesting, revealing, or hilarious, respectively. If you're a French speaker, this may be the mother lode. And if not, bonne chance, mon ami. The film's trailer rounds out the package.
90 minutes; PG; 2.35:1 (16x9-enhanced); French DD 5.1; English (optional) subtitles; DVD-9; Region One; Seville