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Wellspring presents
Comedy of Innocence (2000)

Camille: You must have the wrong child.
Ariane: What's come over you?
Camille: You're not my mommy.

- Nils Hugon, Isabelle Huppert

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: December 02, 2003

Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Charles Berling, Jeanne Balibar
Other Stars: Nils Hugon, Edith Scob, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Director: Raoul Ruiz

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:38m:04s
Release Date: November 11, 2003
UPC: 720917540122
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B-C+B C

DVD Review

Moviegoers hate feeling cheated. No matter how well directed, well acted or well photographed a film may be, if the story pitches too many errant curveballs, it leaves a sour aftertaste. Though the change-ups thrown by Comedy of Innocence just barely miss the strike zone, they're far enough outside to severely taint the film. It seems writers Raoul Ruiz (who also directed) and Françoise Dumas overcomplicate a simple premise merely for complications' sake. With all of the film's creepy goings-on and cryptic characters, we expect a hefty payoff, but Comedy of Innocence winds up being much ado about very little indeed. Maybe if Ruiz focused more on character and less on mystery, the audience could better relate to the action on screen. But by keeping viewers at arm's length, Ruiz prevents us from embracing his film.

Comedy of Innocence is not a comedy at all, but rather a disjointed, often maddening French drama with supernatural overtones. The DVD packaging quotes two reviews that compare it to The Sixth Sense, but aside from a bizarre young boy, a concerned mother, and a sinister undercurrent, few similarities exist. The Sixth Sense, however, builds to a thundering climax, while the final revelation of Comedy of Innocence is tepid at best.

The film's title at first seems as much of a riddle as the story, but upon reflection makes perfect sense. One little boy innocently sets in motion a comedy of errors that turns his family's life upside-down and inside out. That little boy is Camille (Nils Hugon), and on his 9th birthday he expresses to his mother, Ariane (Isabelle Huppert), a steadfast desire to go home—but not to the posh townhouse he's occupied with his family since birth. Camille wants to return to his "real" mother. Ariane is bewildered by the statement, but decides to humor Camille and play along with what she thinks is a juvenile prank. She and Camille travel by taxi to the far side of Paris, where Camille identifies his "home." Once inside, he embraces Isabella (Jeanne Balibar) like a long lost son, and wanders around the apartment with an air of heavy familiarity. Isabella calls the boy Paul, and Camille responds to the name. Ariane is confused, jealous, and devastated, but Camille sticks to his story—he really is Paul, he says. Yet when Isabella reveals that Paul has been dead for two years, Ariane wonders whether the dead boy's spirit could be somehow inhabiting the body of Camille.

While this sounds like a promising premise, Comedy of Innocence soon careens off course, and by the time we discover the root of Camille's behavior, our interest has long since waned. Perhaps Ruiz believed the bizarre characters and sketchy situations would keep us intrigued—and they do, but only for so long. Unlike The Sixth Sense, the ultimate truth doesn't ring true, and isn't even particularly interesting.

Comedy of Innocence contains a lovely performance by Huppert, but the eerie directorial style misleads us into believing the film is something it is not. A straight dramatic examination of this dysfunctional family, without all the supernatural trimmings, would have been more engrossing, realistic and worthwhile.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Pale and grainy, Comedy of Innocence possesses little visual spark. Images are generally clear, although a gauzy pallor seems to afflict the picture much of the time. Fleshtones are rich and true, and minimal surface debris mars the presentation. Still, an overall flatness keeps this transfer from drawing us into the story, and makes the city of Paris look uncommonly drab.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: There's little opportunity for surround action on the DD 5.1 track, but the audio remains clear and clean throughout. Some of the dialogue sounds a bit hollow and muffled, but the English subtitles guard against any missed words or garbled phrases. A Dolby stereo track is also included on the disc.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 51m:27s

Extras Review: A rather dry, disjointed interview with director Raoul Ruiz is the main supplement. Titled The Temptation of Innocence, the 12-minute featurette combines film clips with interview footage, in which Ruiz discusses his photographic style, how he believes there is both a "realistic" and "fantastic" side to every story, and the "unwritten" French law that prohibits ghost-story films. Ruiz has a lot to say, but little of it makes sense. He tries to clear up some of the film's vague plot points, but only succeeds in further clouding various issues.

A weblink (which yields a connection to profiles of both Ruiz and actress Isabelle Huppert), cast and crew filmographies, and an original trailer complete the disc extras.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

A weak, misleading story overshadows Isabelle Huppert's fine performance and ultimately sinks Comedy of Innocence. Director Raoul Ruiz tries to turn an intimate family drama into a supernatural thriller, but winds up producing a jumbled mess instead.


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