Un Couple Épatant
the lightness of its comedy turns out to have a deliciously dark edge
Running Time: 97 minutes
UK Certificate: PG
The three films which make up Lucas Belvaux’s ‘La Trilogie’ are all set in Grenoble at the same time, drawing on a pool of common characters, and with some shared scenes – yet by focussing on the lives of a different pair of principal characters, each film tells a different story in a different genre. The films make good sense by themselves, but form a far richer, more intricate experience when viewed together as a triptych, and can be seen in any order, as is attested by Tartan’s decision to release ‘An Amazing Couple’ as the second film of the trilogy, even though in France it opened the cycle. No doubt Tartan feared that British viewers might be put off seeing the other two films if their first taste of ‘La Trilogie’ were the apparently light middle-class comedy of ‘An Amazing Couple’.
While awaiting the results of medical tests that he is convinced will reveal a terminal illness, hypochondriac Alain Costes (François Morel) – whose symptoms include ‘a sense of great solitude’ – keeps his anxieties secret to avoid causing undue concern for his beloved wife Cécile (Ornella Muti). Cécile, however, knowing that Alain is lying to her about something, starts keeping records on him, and asks Pascal (Gilbert Melki), a police inspector who is married to Cécile’s colleague Agnès (Dominique Blanc), to do a bit of sniffing around. Pascal, in love with Cécile, is all too keen to find Alain guilty of adultery. Alain, noticing that he is being followed, starts in his turn to suspect Cécile of wanting to steal his business’ top secret patents, and soon thinks everyone is part of a conspiracy against him.
With all the lies, neurosis and domestic confusion that it depicts, ‘An Amazing Couple’ conforms to the conventions of a classic farce, yet what makes the film interesting is its subtle critique of the limitations of this genre and its bourgeois sensibilities. So vainly obsessed are Alain and Cécile with problems of their own invention that they remain completely blinkered to the real problems around them – problems which barely touch their sheltered life, and have no place in their genre. Events in the background – strikes, police roadblocks, Agnès’ morphine addiction, a student uprising, the arrest of one of Cécile’s colleagues – barely register with our amazing couple as they become ever more entangled in their own ridiculous intrigues and conceits. They even unwittingly harbour an armed terrorist in their luxury chalet – although this is clear only to those who have seen ‘La Trologie 1: On the Run‘.
The whole plot is triggered by Alain’s reluctance to talk openly about death, and the question of his possibly fatal diagnosis is raised yet again at the film’s conclusion, only to be left awkwardly dangling there. Death, after all, is too grave a subject to address directly in a genre as determinedly frivolous as farce – but, like a cancer, it leaves its festering trace all over ‘An Amazing Couple’, turning the farce into something far blacker.
It's Got: Madness, mayhem, confusion - and Ornella Muti, best remembered as Princess Aura from Flash Gordon, in one of the lead rôles.
It Needs: To be seen with the other two films of La Trilogie (if you want to appreciate fully its characters blinkered world view).
Alternatives:La Trilogie 1: Cavale, La Trilogie 3: Après la Vie, Rashomon
If you can see only one of the films in 'La Trilogie', then 'An Amazing Couple' is probably not the pick of the bunch – but the lightness of its comedy turns out to have a deliciously dark edge, and the bite behind its absurdity becomes all the sharper when seen in the light of its two more serious sibling films.