**½/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras A-
starring Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Erik Per Sullivan, Olivier Martinez
screenplay by Alvin Sargent and William Broyles Jr., based on the screenplay for La Femme Infidele by Claude Chabrol
directed by Adrian Lyne
by Walter Chaw The designer's eye and yen for the seedy of Adrian Lyne--sort of the Ridley Scott of soft-porn--manifest themselves in Unfaithful, the latest permutation of Lyne's ongoing upper-middle-class angst cycle: blood-pounding eroticism into passionate bloodletting. The kind of Jacques Tati wind that carries off Kansas farm-girls sends Diane Lane's Big Apple gal Connie into the brawny arms of book-dealing Frenchman Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez). Connie dabbles in adultery, though she is not exactly unhappily married to armoured car company owner Edward (Richard Gere); call it the milk-fed blues. She's just bored enough to take an eleventh-year slackening of attention and a forgotten overcoat as an excuse to tryst in an impossible Soho loft.
Connie's spoiled rotten, in other words--even her friends think so. All her advantages (the money, the body, the family, the home) and interest in them has been replaced by a wandering eye. Adulterers in Lyne's world are victims of inexorable tides, carried into the arms of inappropriate partners while immaculately styled only-children wonder about their fate in more impossible habitats. Unfaithful makes a fetish of consensual rape and Frenchmen who like Jack London and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam (one part Gallic stud, one part wilderness grizzle, one part moony teen) while finding new expressions of Lyne's old fixations of elevators and soaking people. It isn't a bad film, but it's one that we've seen from Lyne before: adult morality plays alternately heavy-handed and overheated.
Despite a few thriller elements clearly owed to Claude Chabrol (on whose La femme infidele Unfaithful is loosely based), Lyne presents an unapologetically erotic, surprisingly mature-themed film (amidst much monumentalized puerility) despite its deficiencies and a few throbbing lulls. It's interesting enough without its gallows humour (a stuck elevator presents a particular problem) and its surprising moment of gore (shades of The Talented Mr. Ripley), and the picture's second half suffers from a tonal shift. What begins as a dirge for the institutions of physical and emotional wealth diverges midway into something of a competent yet vague potboiler before finding its slow rhythm again at the end.
Unfaithful feels more impressionistic than realistic. As is his wont, Lyne tells his appassionato in smooth cuts, loaded dissolves, and noir cinematography courtesy his 9½ Weeks DP Peter Biziou. As such, all the parts are moderately to egregiously underwritten: Lane's Connie has a showpiece sequence on a subway car (shades of Tim Robbins's subterranean epiphanies in Lyne's Jacob's Ladder), but like Gere's Anne Archer-turn as the long-suffering cuckold-turned avenging angel of order, she's at the mercy of Lyne convention. At the bottom is Martinez's lothario, a talking plot device who joins other plot devices (insipid Chad Lowe's simpering catalyst for not only the "irony" speech but also the "loyalty" harangue; Erik Per Sullivan's prescient, Linda Blair-like wetting at a moment of change). Martinez's Paul Martel's only real purpose is to provide the film the opportunity for its fantastically ambivalent finale--the saving grace of Unfaithful and one of the most mature and thoughtful endings of any movie we're likely to see from Hollywood this year. Originally published: May 10, 2002.
by Bill Chambers Peel back the layers of the Unfaithful DVD and you'll unearth a satisfactorily supplemented Special Edition in terms of both quantity and quality. As for the soft, greyish 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (a separate full-frame version is also available--be careful, as the two are differentiated on the back of the case rather than on the front), do not adjust your set: you're in Adrian Lyne territory now. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is bland at best, as befits a chamber piece. Music and wind are given the widest berth in the soundstage.
Adrian Lyne offers a surprisingly unpretentious feature-length yak-track in which he reveals that a stripped-down Radiohead tune ("Exit Music") was incorporated instrumentally into the score. (I'm a huge fan of both the group and the song and still failed to recognize it.) Alternating time at the mic, Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez provide commentary for select scenes indexed according to their content, with the latter here and elsewhere more difficult to comprehend than he is in Unfaithful proper. I think I heard Martinez correctly that he wore his own clothing in the film.
Eleven deleted scenes with optional commentary by Lyne (during which his wife fixes him a cup of coffee!) reveal a couple of missing gems, including a clever use for the video camera, which seems like a device without a payoff in the final cut. (Yes, there's an additional love scene, though it's chaste at best.) "An Affair to Remember: On the Set of Unfaithful" (16 mins.) compiles sincere, substantial observations from the cast, Lyne, and producer G. Mac Brown; best is the story of choosing the "guilt present" that Lane's character buys for Richard Gere's--mandatory viewing for those under the assumption that filmmaking is a cakewalk. "Anne Coates on Editing" (not timed) finds the legendary editor of Lawrence of Arabia discussing Unfaithful's first sexual encounter as well as the picture's original ending.
A brisk roundtable session with Lyne, Gere, and Lane from "The Charlie Rose Show" (19 mins.) is recycled, but more interesting are the individual interview segments (approximately seven minutes apiece) with Gere, Lane, and Martinez. Although Gere keeps his answers Unfaithful-centric (whilst somewhat incredibly referring to himself as "quite a normal family guy"), Lane conducts a little no-nonsense Lane on Lane, reviewing the biggest hits and most high-profile misses of her career. For as fetching as Lane is, her personality is even more attractive--it's a tragic miracle that she's not a big huge star after three decades in the business. (Aside: Martinez is again hard to understand in his chatty one-on-one.) Three beautifully annotated screenplay excerpts ("Director's Script Notes") plus trailers for Unfaithful, Daredevil, and The Dancer Upstairs round out this classy package. Note that Fox has adopted Universal's cover graph in laying out the DVD's vital stats. Originally published: November 26, 2002.