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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"I mustn't let him destroy me. You told me that...it's the last thing I'll do. Then I'll never mention him again."
DVD ReviewIn Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, released in 1950, four characters tell their versions of a possible rape and murder. In each version, both the details and basic events are different, and mutually irreconcilable. In doing so Kurosawa raised not only questions about subjectivity and the nature of truth, but whether a film is able to accurately reflect either actual or imagined reality. He was not the first to raise these questions, and the history of cinema is filled with examples of the "unreliable narrator"—that is, a narrator whose description of events doesn't fit their visual depiction, or in some cases (notably Hitchcock's Stage Fright) does accurately reflect what is said, but in either case is later proven to be incorrect.
Flash forward to the 1990s, where not only Peter Howitt's Sliding Doors, but Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run take this questioning of "truth" to an extreme. Drawing either consciously or unconsciously on chaos theory, each film depicts how a seemingly insignificant choice or random event can lead to completely different series of events and outcomes, and much of the pleasure derived from these films is not only in the differences, but the similarities in their depiction of the results of these choices.
This leads us to He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, which is the apparently straightforward, and sometimes banal, depiction of Angéline (Audrey Tautou), a talented art student engaged in a more-or-less clandestine affair with married cardiologist Dr. Loïc Le Garrec (Samuel Le Bihan). Despite the attentions of her friend David (Clément Sibony), who is obviously smitten with her, and best friend Héloïse (Sophie Guillemin), who advises her to be cautious, Angéline continues to put up with a whole series of snubs and missed rendez-vous by the doctor. But these disappointments take their toll, and Angéline's behavior becomes more and more aberrant. One of Dr. Le Garrec's patients accuses him of abusing her, and threatens to ruin his practice. When Héloïse hears on the radio that the patient is dead of a heart attack following a struggle, and Angéline shows up with a bruise on her face, her suspicions are aroused.
But don't believe what you've just read, or anything you think you've seen, heard, or understood in the film up to this point. In a clever turn of events, the film switches gears and recounts EXACTLY the same story, but from a different point of view, and our interpretation and understanding of what happened takes a 180 degree turn. In doing so, it goes both beyond Rashomon and the chaos theory films. The former posits a single truth, with a vastly different on-screen depiction of the events, according to that character's interpretation. In He Love Me, He Loves Me Not, the depiction of events is identical (or nearly so), but the truth behind them is completely different, and in this way the film supercedes the simplistic alternative narratives of the chaos theory films. Although the script is at times too clever (certain repeated scenes seem impossible to understand in the light of the "new truth," only to be quickly explained), it's fascinating to see how a simple change of point of view can so drastically change one's interpretation of events.
This is an extremely enjoyable film—not only is the script clever and intriguing, but the performances range from very good (Sophie Guillemin) to excellent (Samuel Le Bihan, Clément Sibony, and Audrey Tautou—despite her lackluster playing in Dirty Pretty Things, now in US theatres). Director Colombani's visual style reflects both the seemingly objective events and also the interior mental states of her protagonists, but is never too flashy or extreme.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic transfer features bright, vivid colors, but it disappointing in other respects. Most scenes are grainy, and at times this grain looks less like grain from the print used than some overzealous digital processing. The color scale often looks compressed, with a resultant flatness in the image, and there is excessive edge enhancement. All in all this looks less like a film than an overly-processed interpretation of one.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital mix is at all times clear and shows a good dynamic range. In keeping with the character-driven nature of the film, it is almost exclusively in the front channels, occasionally opening up in to the surrounds as needed.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, My Wife is an Actress, Talk To Her
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsActress Laetitia Colombani's freshman effort as a director, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, is an intriguing and entertaining "don't believe what you see" film, in the style of Rashomon or The Sixth Sense. Don't let the less than ideal transfer and minimal extras keep you from checking it out.
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