L'Ennui

Reckless lust burns a hole through the life of a high-strung professor of philosophy in this adaptation of Italian novelist Alberto Moravia's withering examination of sexual cruelty sans kinky thrills. Glib intellectual Martin (Charles Berling) is an emotional wreck, recently separated from his wife (Arielle Dombasle) and given to wandering the Parisian...read more

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Reckless lust burns a hole through the life of a high-strung professor of philosophy in this adaptation of Italian novelist Alberto Moravia's withering examination of sexual cruelty sans kinky thrills. Glib intellectual Martin (Charles Berling) is an

emotional wreck, recently separated from his wife (Arielle Dombasle) and given to wandering the Parisian streets by night. He impulsively follows a dazed-looking fellow — an unsuccessful painter named Meyers (American director Robert Kramer) — whom he spots arguing with a young girl on

the street, and strikes up a conversation. Three days later, having learned that Meyers has died in flagrente, Martin meets the 17-year-old model whose nude image fills every corner of Meyers' shabby studio. Stolid and unnervingly impassive, Cecilia (Sophie Guillemin) exerts some

hard-to-define hold over Martin; he badgers her about Meyers' obsession but never notices that he himself has fallen under her spell until it's too late. Completely baffled by his own behavior — Martin doesn't even like the imperturbable Cecilia; how could he? — Martin proceeds to

make a shambles of his life. He abandons the book he's writing, alienates his friends and debases himself, spying on the girl and insinuating himself into the bosom of her sad family (her father is dying of throat cancer; her mother simply looks used up). Cecilia accepts everything — her

father's illness; Meyers' death; Martin's desperate kindnesses, bitter recriminations and frenzied sexual neediness — with the same infuriating indifference. This very French essay in anti-eroticism is both explicit (though not quite so explicit as Catherine Breillat's ROMANCE) and

exhaustingly talky. Its evocation of the corrosive power of desire creeps up on you; just as you're about to dismiss the whole thing as those over-analytical French talking the subject to death, the movie catches you with a creepy sucker punch.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Reckless lust burns a hole through the life of a high-strung professor of philosophy in this adaptation of Italian novelist Alberto Moravia's withering examination of sexual cruelty sans kinky thrills. Glib intellectual Martin (Charles Berling) is an emo… (more)

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