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My Wife Is An Actress

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: My Wife Is An Actress

Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Yvan Attal
Director: Yvan Attal
Rated: R
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: July 2002
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Foreign


*Also starring: Terence Stamp, Laurent Bateau, Noemie Lvovsky, Ludivine Sagnier, Lionel Abelanski



Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

Being married to a major film star must be tough. If you're both hotshot performers like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, you're likely hardly ever to see each other and in fact that's the reason Tom gave for demanding a divorce. (Ironic, isn't it, that because married people rarely see each other, they should opt for a legal condition that precludes their ever seeing each other?) If you're a regular guy married to a major film star, you've also got a problem. People will come up to your wife and ask for her autograph: you're chopped liver. You try to get a reservation in, say, Nobu, are told that the earliest accommodation is midnight: then your wife, the star, calls, and lands a table at 9. That's not all. Most important, how do you react --especially if you're not an actor and you don't understand how a love scene is "only a movie" (yeah, right) when your wife is not only in bed with the leading man but is in her birthday suit? An intriguing question, especially when you consider how many "performers" wind up coupled or married after having met during the production of a film.

Of course art often follows life just as life can follow art, even more so in Yvan Attar's "My Wife is an Actress," in that Mr. Attal also performs in his picture as the husband of his real-life spouse, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Even their names Charlotte and Yvan are used in the story and for all we know the tale is not without autobiographical resonance.

In the picture, which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and here in the U.S. at the New Directors/New Films series at the Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte and Yvan are happily married for the most part though Yvan envies autograph seekers who hound his wife everywhere while he, as a sports writer, gets no such attention What's more, Yvan is concerned about the sex scenes his wife must perform in her movies. One overly frank person he meets in a bar reports to Yvan that Charlotte gets him aroused (thanks for sharing). No wonder that when Charlotte gets a gig in London for a movie that has a nude scene she is to perform with her leading man, John (Terence Stamp), Yvan has a series of panic attacks, even paying surprise visits on her by taking the Eurostar from Paris to London.

In a subplot that simply does not fit into this frothy comedy but which writer-director Attar added to show that family life is full of banal arguments in addition to the heady ones engaged in by actors, Yvan's pregnant, Jewish sister Nathalie (Noemie Lvovsky) keeps a running argument going with her Gentile husband Vincent (Laurent Bateau), about the need to circumcise their baby eight days after his birth. Nathalie is a particularly annoying person who is not only plain-featured especially when compared to the lovely Charlotte but chain- smokes even during the final stages of her pregnancy. If she were so worked up about getting her newborn circumcised, even naming him Moses, why didn't she marry a nice Jewish boy instead? If I were an interviewer, the first question I'd ask Attar would be, "What did you have in mind when you created such an irritating person, one who endangers the health of her fetus by puffing through one pack of butts after another?

As Charlotte's leading man in the movie being filmed, Terence Stamp deliberately chosen by Attar because at age 63 and looking older he may post no real threat of an affair with the youthful Gainsbourg makes a few subtle moves on Charlotte, which I suppose is not so unusual considering the intimate scenes they rehearse, John's status as a divorced person, and Yvan's absence in Paris.

Yvan Attar's tale of two cities, then, has in common with the Charles Dickens classic the discussion about a (symbolic) guillotine, is a delightfully frothy romantic tale, and Brad Mehldau's jazzy score adds extra bubbles to this typically French souffle.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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