Middle-aged doctor Catherine (Fanny Ardant) is apparently happily married to businessman Bernard (Gerard Depardieu). They have their troubles, of course; a certain coolness between them, the sense that they've settled into parallel ruts, but neither is deeply unhappy. Bernard assures Catherine that his periodic infidelities mean nothing and that he loves her deeply, and she believes him. It's just that the though of his affairs is a thorn in her imagination, not so much because she doubts his fundamental devotion but because she wonders what about Bernard those other women see and touch. And so she hires lush-lipped prostitute Marlene (Emmanuelle Beart), who works in a swanky gentlemen's club near her medical offices, to find out and tell her all about it. Catherine assures Marlene she's just Bernard's type, renames her "Nathalie," concocts a cover story she's a student, studying to be an interpreter and arranges for their paths to cross at the cafe where Bernard has his morning coffee. Marlene does the rest, dutifully reporting the details of their hotel-room trysts in every detail. Catherine is overwhelmed by a complex flood of emotions; she's shocked, angry and hurt, but Marlene only did as she was asked. Now that Catherine knows what her husband of 25 years is like in bed with another woman, she can hardly believe what a porn-movie cliche he becomes when he's with "Nathalie." Catherine begins to play subtle, spiteful little tricks on Bernard, ordering Marlene's favorite wine when they're out together, bringing her scent into their bed by using Marlene's brand of hand cream, then pulling away when he draws close. She even has her own fling with a rough-edged, much-younger waiter she meets at a fund-raising event. Marlene, meanwhile, becomes invested in the character of "Nathalie," who grows ever more deeply involved with Bernard. Though the increasingly complicated mind games lead to a twist ending, the real surprise is how compelling the sexual shenanigans are. In different hands and different lands, the same story could easily have been a pretentious bit of Red Shoe Diaries piffle. But exceptional performances and the oh-so-Frenchness of the complications instead produce an erotic tale that plays like the best gossipy story you ever heard about people you thought you knew.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: NR
- Review: Middle-aged doctor Catherine (Fanny Ardant) is apparently happily married to businessman Bernard (Gerard Depardieu). They have their troubles, of course; a certain coolness between them, the sense that they've settled into parallel ruts, but neither is dee… (more)