Portraits Chinois

The romantic entanglements of a group of young Parisians are endlessly examined in this handsomely mounted soap opera. It opens as Ada (Helena Bonham Carter), an English girl working for esteemed fashion designer Rene Sandre (Jean-Claude Brialy), and her French boyfriend Paul (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey), a screenwriter, take the big step of buying an apartment...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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The romantic entanglements of a group of young Parisians are endlessly examined in this handsomely mounted soap opera. It opens as Ada (Helena Bonham Carter), an English girl working for esteemed fashion designer Rene Sandre (Jean-Claude

Brialy), and her French boyfriend Paul (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey), a screenwriter, take the big step of buying an apartment together. Soon after, they throw a fab party for their glammy friends, who include Paul's writing partner Guido (Sergio Castelitto), who's hopelessly smitten with Paul's

ex-girlfriend Stephanie (Emmanuelle Escourrou); self-absorbed actor Yves (Yvan Attal) and his producer Alphonse (Miki Manojlovic); Alphonse's assistant Nina (Mari Trintignant), a single mother; performer Emma (Elsa Zylberstein), first glimpsed weeping that nobody loves her (it's no wonder, advise

her friends, given her frumpy fashion sense); and Lise (Romane Bohringer), a young designer who works with Ada and secretly loves Paul. A series of complications follow. Sandre falls prey to slip into an inexplicable malaise whose first symptom is that he gives his gold cigarette lighter to Lise

("matches are good enough for me now," he sighs); soon Lise's star is rising at work, eclipsing Ada's. Nina gives Emma a job as a script reader; Lise stalks Paul; Alphonse makes a pass at Emma; Guido's obsession with Stephanie interferes with the script he and Paul are writing for Yves; Paul

succumbs to Lise's relentless pursuit; Ada gets pregnant and so on. Despite some cutsy-pie flourishes like the "witty" aphorisms that mark various scene transitions ("spending three hours in front of the mirror is two hours too many"), it's all pretty entertaining in a shallow sort of way; imagine

a French Melrose Place with a heavy dose of Woody Allen-esque urban ennui. (In French, with English subtitles)

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  • Released: 1996
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The romantic entanglements of a group of young Parisians are endlessly examined in this handsomely mounted soap opera. It opens as Ada (Helena Bonham Carter), an English girl working for esteemed fashion designer Rene Sandre (Jean-Claude Brialy), and her… (more)

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