Beachfront Blues: Our Review of ‘Suzanna Andler’

Posted in by - December 15, 2021
Beachfront Blues: Our Review of ‘Suzanna Andler’

The actors of Benoit Jacquot’s Suzanna Andler don’t always turn their backs from the camera, but there are enough moments when they do that it adds an alienating effect to the film, which is not a good tone to take in depicting an unapproachable subject. At least, to North American proletarian brutes like us, the unapproachable subject is the milieu of rich sad wives of mid-twentieth century France. In particular, the titular sad housewife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) takes visits from her neighbour – it’s complicated – Monique (Julia Roy). She makes calls to her off screen husband Jean. But most importantly, she takes visits from a man, Michel, (Niels Schneider) whom she takes as a lover as an act of revenge against Jean.

In fairness to Suzanna Andler, the film does reach some semblance of intimacy when Suzanna talks about Jean and their moments together. Gainsbourg doesn’t make for a logical choice for such a passive character. But there are moments when the casting makes sense. Who else can evince melancholy the way she does? Who can reveal her secrets to a woman her husband might be cheating with like she does? And who else’s line deliveries can transport viewers to other worlds even if the camerawork and the cinematography feels like it’s conspiring against her? These filmic elements make her flat and gray. They blend her in within the blurry shots of the Mediterranean’s wintry, private beaches.

Gainsbourg can also make a, and pardon the phrase, Herculean effort out of phone scenes, like she’s extending her soul to reach to the other person on the line. But she can only do so much with a film that makes bad choices. Choices to make its setting more stifling than it needs to be. The film tries to do a lot of panning around Gainsbourg during certain scenes but it’s not enough. It’s an eight bedroom mansion within walking distance to the Mediterranean coast – walk around or something. Understandably, that’s the point, as it’s loyal to the spirit of the original stage play format from Maguerite Duras. I dislike the point though. And I usually like Japanese music but not here

My experience with French theatre ha sits limits within Yasmina Reza who, according to her Wikipedia page, depicts the middle class even if she makes that class feel like one percenters. This film has characters who have husbands who belong to the highest income tax bracket. There is nothing here to make viewers sympathize with a woman who pairs fur coats with thigh high boots. The same goes for her lover who keeps his shoes on while he’s inside another person’s home. Again, in fairness, Schneider is decent here. His connection with Gainsbourg should feel titanic, and there are moments of that here. But their mundane dialogue leads up to a third act reveal that lands like a whimper and that’s sad.

Suzanna Andler comes soon on OVID.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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