A scene from 'L'ennui'
Courtesy Photo
** stars In French with English subtitles
120 minutes | Unrated
Opened: Friday, February 11, 2000 (SF)
Directed by Cedric Kahn

Starring Charles Berling, Sophie Guillemin & Arielle Dombasle


As pointless as French film can get.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 12.19.2000


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'L'Ennui' a repetitive story of age-askew sexual obsession

By Rob Blackwelder

A "Lolita"-like story of a middle-aged man's sexual obsession with a 17-year-old girl, "L'Ennui" gets repetitive in a big hurry.

Charles Berling ("Ridicule," "Dry Cleaning") stars as Martin, a 40-ish philosophy teacher who drives himself to the brink of insanity trying to possess his indifferent young lover, Cecilia (Sophie Guillemin), who is so emotionally detached that she can't even explain why she sleeps with him. She just does -- about 20 times in the course of the movie, occasionally showing a glimmer of gratification, but more frequently moaning a little, kissing him on the cheek and saying goodbye.

Cecilia is a maddening enigma to Martin only because she's intellectually underdeveloped and can't express herself to his satisfaction. As he becomes overwhelmed by his desire, the movie falls into a looping pattern of sexual rendezvous mixed with scenes of Martin following Cecilia, Martin phoning Cecilia and Martin pulling his hair out over Celilia's nonchalant attitude toward their relationship -- and her affair with another man. She sees no conflict. Martin, of course, does.

Every once in a while, up-and-coming director Cédric Kahn ("Trop de Bonheur") pauses for discussions between the two that are at least as circular as the action.

Martin: "Are you ever bored?"
Cecilia: "Sometimes."
Martin: "What is this boredom?"
Cecilia: "Boredom is Boredom."

How very French.

The exponential intensity that Berling brings to Martin is somehow enough to hold one's interest for the length of the film. The extremely sensual -- but not sexy -- Guillemin does a fine job with a difficult part, playing a girl who is tantalizing yet completely apathetic.

But the fact that the both characters are aggravating emotional retards makes it near impossible to care what happens to either of them.

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