Portuguese producer Paulo Branco's effort to bring Marcel Proust's monumental multi-volume Remembrance of Things Past to the screen takes an interesting turn with this second installment an adaptation of volume five, The Captive. (The series is developing with no particular concern for order: The preceding film, Raul Ruiz's TIME REGAINED, is adapted from the final book.) Belgian director Chantal Akerman and her co-writer, Eric de Kuyper, made some alterations to Proust's original text, changing the names of the two main characters and updating the setting to contemporary Paris. But they succeed in refining the novel's central dynamic to its bare essence: the perverse, obsessive relationship between the novel's narrator and his elusive, bisexual lover. Handsome, elegantly dressed and hopelessly neurotic, Simon Levy (Stanislas Merhar) lives in a labyrinthine, half-renovated Paris flat with his ailing grandmother (Françoise Bertin), faithful family servant (Liliane Rovere) and Ariane Rey (Sylvie Testud), the object of his unquenchable desire. Largely confined to the apartment by his allergies, Simon ventures out only to follow Ariane as she flits about town, attending singing lessons and meeting her friends for lunch, often in the company of her friend, chaperone and quite possibly lover, Andrée (Olivia Bonamy). During the day, Simon tries to contain his jealous curiosity and concentrate on his study of Racine, but he's soon dressed and out the door, searching desperately for Ariane. Each night he relentlessly grills her about where she went, who she saw and what she did, looking for evidence that she's not being entirely truthful. Ariane then retires to her small compartment where she lies on her cushion, doll-like, awaiting Simon's summons. Throughout, Ariane remains strangely passive she admits to having no thoughts of her own but as the film unfolds, it becomes increasingly unclear just who, exactly, is the captive. For all his control, Simon is paralyzed not just by simple jealousy, but by the realization that Ariane is ultimately unknowable, and that he may be irrelevant to her life. Like the pairing of the visually adventurous Ruiz with the baroque movements of Time Regained, this film represents a perfect match of filmmaker and material. Akerman's fondness for long, static takes and circular, recurring dialogue perfectly suits the maddening repetitions that set the tone of Proust's darkest work. But for all its somber literary pedigree, Akerman playfully grounds her film in cinematic traditions by including resonant references to that other masterpiece of masochistic obsession, Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: NR
- Review: Portuguese producer Paulo Branco's effort to bring Marcel Proust's monumental multi-volume Remembrance of Things Past to the screen takes an interesting turn with this second installment an adaptation of volume five, The Captive. (The series is deve… (more)