I'm not one for really getting a lot out of these "love triste" movies,
so please don't take my review of Nathalie as being by someone who's
particularly fond of the genre. I find these relationship movies as
boring as I'm sure most women find Hong Kong action movies, forgive the
generalisation, but I just wanted to make sure you knew where I was
Nathalie is French movie about a couple who's marriage isn't what it
used to be, mainly due to each others work schedules. The wife
(Catherine) starts to think her husband (Bernard) is having an affair.
After he comes clean about having a few one night stands, Catherine
concocts a plan involving hiring a local hooker (Nathalie/Marlène) to
seduce him and report her findings to Catherine after every date.
The cast is a very strong line up of well known French actors. Catherine
is played by Fanny Ardent, her husband Bernard is played by Gérard
Depardieu and Emmanuelle Béart plays Nathalie/Marlène, Nathalie being a
false name created for her seducing persona. I was expecting a lot more
from this cast than I saw. The stereotypical nature of the characters
made them almost soulless, and these very talented actors are far more
capable than the script and direction here allowed them.
Nathalie/Marlène plays the aloof and coldhearted prostitute completely
by the book and gives her little humanity. Catherine is played out as a
paranoid woman who's seems to lack any common sense, and really makes
her own bed and is made to lie in it, so to speak. Perhaps this was the
idea, but to me it came off as a cop out.
This is the great proportion of the movie's hook, and it does play out
on some subtly different tangents to what one would expect. You are
never 100% sure what's real and what's make believe, and who Nathalie is
really in a relationship with. The movie plays out relatively surprise
free and too many clues were given away in the first scenes as to what
is in fact going on.
The paranoia of Catherine's character began to grate on me very early on
in the movie and after another hour of it I felt little compassion for
her situation. Most rational thought goes out the window fairly early on
in the film, and trying to make a movie where you are supposed to
empathise with the characters to great extent isn't going to help its
audience by alienating them to the main characters through having them
make some really stupid decisions.
At the core of this movie is trust. Who can you trust and who can you
believe? Nathalie poses a few interesting ideas to this in relation to
Catherine and Bernard's onscreen relationship, but it's not
something new and neither is it particularly well done.
The languid pace of the movie made it seem very stilted, and one is
never sure how much time has actually passed from scene to scene.
Perhaps the one thing that irked me the most was that little, if any of
the movie, lends itself to Bernard's perspective. He is barely there in
character, and one gets the feeling that not having him onscreen for
long periods of time and having his dialogue as bland as possible was
the only way to get the audience to dislike or distrust him.
I don't think this is a bad movie, per se', but I do think it is an
underdeveloped idea that could have had more of an impact if the
characters weren't as stereotyped and a few more layers of the story
were built upon, instead of just scratching the surface of this idea and
having it play out as expectedly as it did.
I am sure this perspective of Nathalie is borne from being a male, as I
am certain this movie isn't geared towards a male audience. The politics
of married relationships aren't something I particularly enjoy watching,
and although this did keep me relatively entertained to the end, I must
say that I think its target female demographic would appreciate it more.
Video: The picture is very clean and sharp and is what one
expects from recent movies on DVD in this day and age. No real
problems with the picture surfaced although detail became a tad
inconsistent, more than likely due to the colour filtering post
production work, I imagine. The 2.35:1 picture shows up the sumptuous
urban French landscape, though mainly at night. The interiors exhibit a
lot of detail and one really couldn't complain about too much of the
transfer at all.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn't going to be your
favourite home theatre demonstration to your friends, but one wouldn't
expect that form this kind of movie. A good 90% of the soundtrack
is front loaded with little surround use aside from some ambient effects
in some of the party sequences. Of course there was very little low end,
but some of the music did resonate into the lower frequencies when it
should have. The French dialogue is always clean, and the English
subtitles seemed to keep up quite well. Not being a fluent speaker of
French, I can't tell how accurate they were, but their pacing was well
in keeping with spoken dialogue, which is what I find to be the real
necessity of subtitles.
Special Features: Aside from the usual trailer/bibliographies and
photo gallery, the only other extra is a Making Of Featurette. This
would be welcome if not for the fact its all in French and the there are
no English subtitles. It involved a lot of repeated scenes of the movie,
with voice over and some behind the scenes footage. Not having subtitles
for this has to be one of the worst decisions made for a region 4 DVD
extra ever. The featurette runs just shy of half an hour, so I'm
assuming there's actually some insightful information.
Final Say: Nathalie succeeds in creating a by-the-book French
"love triste" movie but in the process alienates a good percentage of
its audience by making the female characters so stereotypical. I'm
sure a lot of women will get more entertainment value than I did as
that's the audience it seems to have been geared towards. As a
relationship-movie-with-a-twist goes, it comes off as a pedestrian
melodrama, with under used acting talent and is, in general, a step
backwards from other French films from the last 50 years of similar
subject matter. The DVD is aesthetically well presented, but the extras
are an afterthought, with a French only featurette that defies logical