5x2 movie review, François Ozon, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stéphane Freiss. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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A scene from '5x2'
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2.5 stars
(In subtitled French)
87 minutes | Unrated
LIMITED: Friday, June 24, 2005
Directed by François Ozon

Starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stéphane Freiss, Francoise Fabian, Geraldine Pailhas, Michael Lonsdale

  • François Ozon

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    Inventive director François Ozon travels backward through a troubled marriage in smart but flawed '5x2'

    By Rob Blackwelder

    Opening with an extended scene of such dry divorce-related legalese that after a while it becomes almost funny (property division, child support, life insurance, taxes), "5x2" is another entirely unique cinematic experience from writer-director François Ozon.

    The young filmmaker has a penchant for inventively tweaking the nose of whatever genre he's working in -- 2003's dark noir thriller "Swimming Pool" was ironically sunshiny, 2002's "8 Women" was a musical spoof of Agatha Christie whodunits (or perhaps a murderous spoof of Technicolor musicals). His new endeavor may sound a little more traditional -- it tells the tale of a once-happy marriage falling apart -- but leave it to Ozon to start with the divorce and work backward to the couple's first flirtations on a beautiful beach.

    In the first of five episodes going back through time, a drained-looking Marion and Gilles (Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi and Stéphane Freiss) finalize their separation, then go to a hotel room for a last romp in bed that shows just how ugly their relationship has become. Later scenes allude to the infidelity, unreasonable demands, emotional disconnects and other turning points that are not immediately apparent to the characters themselves.

    As the film back passes through the birth of the couple's son, then their honeymoon and wedding (a civil ceremony emblematically as dry as the opening scene's divorce), Bruni-Tedeschi and Freiss weave increasingly subtle hints of discontent and temptation into their performances, while Ozon builds an image of better times that do stick with the characters even through their worst of times.

    But despite its strong acting and purposefully clever structure, "5x2" is only sporadically engaging -- and often off-putting. Ozon lets us see unattractive truths in these people (for instance, Gilles is a terribly selfish and sometimes cruel lover), but the director doesn't find enough romantic spark (or enough kindness) in the relationship's earlier scenes to make the audience really empathize with the initial attraction.

    Ozon's originality and talent for tapping a psychological raw nerve makes "5x2" a noteworthy film even with these caveats. But characters the audience could get behind -- whose points of view were easier to slip into ourselves -- would have made for a better movie.

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