‘Suzanna Andler’ Review: French Riviera Blues

The central figure in the French drama “Suzanna Andler” is a woman for whom passion, tragedy and indecision elicit the same response — a shrug. Her voice never raises; her face rarely betrays her emotions. She speaks to her friend, her husband and her lover in the same monotone. Even a raise of the eyebrows is too active for this inert film.

Suzanna (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is the chic wife of a wealthy businessman. He neglects her, or they neglect each other, and in Suzanna’s leisure time, she has taken a younger lover, Michel (Niels Schneider). The film takes place in a single afternoon, as Suzanna contemplates renting a summer home with her husband’s money.

Michel comes to visit, and his presence pushes Suzanna to consider pending decisions that haunt her. Should she rent the house? Should she leave her husband? Should she drink herself to death? Who cares?

“Suzanna Andler” is an adaptation of a play by the writer Marguerite Duras, best known in cinema for her contributions to the screenplay of the 1959 film “Hiroshima, Mon Amour.” The director Benoît Jacquot’s interpretation of Duras’s disaffected characters leads him to keep his images detached. Pans and zooms show the same dispassion that his characters profess. Lovers kiss, and the camera moves away from the action.

It’s a test of patience to watch these glass figurines discuss their romantic entanglements, the doll house on the Riviera that they will maybe rent, the bourgeois marriages they will maybe leave. Even the camera seems bored, as if it might wander off.

Suzanna Andler
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. In theaters.

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