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IFC presents
Private Fears in Public Places (2006)

"Don't worry. I'll make it."
- Daniel (Lambert Wilson)

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: October 25, 2007

Stars: André Dussollier, Sabine Azéma, Pierre Arditi, Lambert Wilson, Laura Morante, Isabelle Carré
Director: Alain Resnais

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for language, adult themes, sexual suggestiveness
Run Time: 02h:05m:43s
Release Date: August 07, 2007
UPC: 796019803939
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Alain Resnais' latest film, Private Fears in Public Places aka Coeurs, brings the French master back to American filmgoers via the only avenue available to most of us, that of DVD. His films get very few screenings outside the major cities, so we should be grateful for whatever scraps we get. This latest work, adapted from Alan Ayckbourn's play, looks into the lives of six Parisians who all find themselves struggling with love and relationships in the modern world.

Ayckbourn has established a set-up in which his characters overlap, however improbable some may find the ways in which they do so. For example, Thierry (André Dussollier) is a real estate agent, who harbors feelings for Charlotte (Sabine Azéma), his mousy, religious secretary. Charlotte has started as a part time caregiver for the father of Lionel (Pierre Arditi), a bartender stuck listening to the drunken ramblings of Dan (Lambert Wilson), an ex-soldier at loose ends after being drummed out of the military. When Dan and fiancee Nicole (Laura Morante) separate, Dan answers a personal ad placed by Gaëlle (Isabelle Carré), Thierry's sister. Thierry is also the estate agent for Dan and Laura as they search for a new apartment. And so it goes.

The screenplay, as I understand it, keeps the structure of Ayckbourn's play, which is comprised of fifty-plus short scenes, each punctuated with a snowfall-initiated fadeout, referencing both the lousy weather of Paris and the icy chill in each character's emotional life. By and large, this conceit works quite well, culminating in a lovely use of snow as a literal (yet still metaphorical) presence in a climactic scene between Lionel and Charlotte. Resnais' hand in all of this is assured, with his direction a prime reason why the films works as well as it does, coupled with the excellent performances by the cast. Where the film suffers is in its been-there done-that script, which doesn't say anything new, and throws in oddball elements that don't always mesh, such as Charlotte's secret hobby of taping herself doing erotic dances, which she passes on to Thierry, unwittingly or not, at the end of videotapes with religious programs. Never mind the stereotype of having the religious character be the biggest perv. Her behavior is the strangest in the film, leaving us as it does unsure of whether to laugh or be appalled at her actions, particularly towards Lionel's father. Also, the casting of Isabelle Carré pushes believability too far in two ways; first, she's way too young-looking to be Dussollier's sister (or he's too old to be her brother), and she's also gorgeous, which makes it really difficult to believe she can't find a half-way decent guy.

The film finishes where it began, emotionally speaking, as the characters are, in a couple cases at least, worse off than when they began. A story like the one told here can't really have a definite ending however, as Resnais and Ayckbourn both want to tell us that happiness is fleeting, and what works with another person may end before we realize it. It's a grim film in many ways, arguing that loneliness is the only constant, and the snowfall is always around the corner.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The film's Scope framing is shown to good effect in this transfer, with solid colors and detail. The white, optional English subtitles are clean and free of errors.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The French 5.1 track here doesn't have to do a lot, this being a film almost solely comprised of dialogue, and it comes across well. Nothing really to complain about here.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Nothing at all.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

While I'd love to see Resnais and other filmmakers of his caliber get more attention these days, a difficult film like this one won't do it. Depressing and hard to love, Private Fears in Public Places still packs an emotional punch, with performances and direction that eclipse a standard script. The DVD is bare bones but otherwise fine.


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