Review: Un Plus Une
One should never disqualify the chance for love, even when both parties are with ideal partners. Director Claude Lelouch has been peddling love stories for over 40 years and made his mark on the world with 1966’s A Man and a Woman. Similar to that story, a chance meeting has enabled an ill-advised love affair. Oscar winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Elsa Zylberstein enable this forbidden love while on a spiritual quest throughout India.
Dujardin, as fans of The Artist should know, is a suave gentleman who is equal part Gene Kelly and James Bond. He is dashing and extremely likeable, so it is easy to imagine he could sleep with plenty of women. Antoine Abeilard, a famous film composer, has had plenty of partners until he meets a younger pianist (Alice Pol) who seemingly wants a more complicated romance. Before he can answer any such questions, Antoine is hired to score a Bollywood movie that brings him to the country of India. Ending up being far less important than originally perceived, the new feature is based on a love story that swept the nation, Juliette and Romeo, in which a thief hits a dancer with his car and instead of driving away, brings the young lady to the hospital.
On his first night in India, Antoine meets the lovely Anna Hamon (Zylberstein) and they seemingly hit it off. The only problem is that is already spoken for with her marriage to the French ambassador (Christophe Lambert). Through their conversations the characters framework beings to be built. Antoine, charismatic and handsome, is easily able to gain the favor of Mrs. Hamon. Anna reveals her love for spirituality and details her love of the hit novel The Secret.
Through their budding relationship, Anna reveals that she has decided to take a fertility pilgrimage. She and her husband would love to have a child of their own, but they haven’t been able to get pregnant. Anna believes that the Ganges river has healing powers that will allow her to conceive. Low and behold a convenient plot device to get the two leads some alone time together. It seems that Antoine, has his own problem of a throbbing headache and decides to follow her on her spiritual journey to cure his headache. Of course, this road trip if you will through India, brings these two lost souls ignites a spark that cannot be undone.
Talking about the Ganges river, the main reason to watch Un Plus Une is the lovely cinematography from Robert Alazraki. The two French actors explore their veiled love while navigating through the beauty of India. While the Ganges doesn’t look particularly inviting, the architecture continues to be awe-inspiring. They also have a meeting with Amma, a a Hindu spiritual leader, in which the production team arranged for the two actors to meet with the holy woman. It is said that those who are embraced by Amma have their troubles removed. Without India as a backdrop, there’s nothing here to really recommend. Claude Lelouch has been frequently cited as a director who prefers style over substance. Un Plus Une continues that trend.
Perhaps the biggest issue lies in the main romance between Antoine and Anna. While they consistently talk about upsetting their spouses with an affair, it seems to only be a big faux pas to them. Director Claude Lelouch tries to make the initial parrings special by including flashbacks to when they first meet, but they fail to gain much emotional traction. It doesn’t help when the french ambassador seems so non-chalant about losing his wife. Lambert plays the character as someone just going through the motions, not someone who is deeply troubled about infedelity. It’s met with more of a shrug than outright anger. Antoine’s would-be fiancee, Alice, isn’t much better. While she seems to generally care for Antoine, she could also be using her love to get ahead in her own career. When the players involved seem unaffected by the prospects of loss, it never really invokes much sentiment from the audience either.
Claude Lelouch has been telling love stories for a long time. Given his extensive resume, one would expect him to be able to nail the subtitles of love. There’s a extensive lack of intrigue or drama to events unfolding on screen. Rather than dramatically bringing the star-crossed lovers together in way similar to Romeo and Juliette, from the getgo it is a done deal. The lack of dramatic tension just means there are are few beautiful talking faces and some fantastic backdrops. It is a shame that Un Plus Une brings nothing new to the table and is little more than a lovely trip through India. Not even the charm of Jean Dujardin can save this bore.