Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 171: Fidelité

A middle-class, married woman - Connie - from the suburbs of New York City, embarks on a passionate sexual affair with a younger, Frenchman - Paul - that she randomly encounters on the streets of Manhattan. Unbeknownst to Connie, her husband - Edward - discovers the adultery and goes to the young man’s loft apartment to confront her lover. In a fit of unpremeditated rage Edward kills the young man and then disposes of his body. Paul’s corpse is eventually found and then, Connie’s phone number - hastily scribbled down at the young man’s apartment - leads police detectives to her family home. Connie is distraught on learning of the death of her lover, but cannot display her distress in front of her husband (for she has no reason to believe he knows what has taken place, nor dare he find out). She has to lie about knowing the dead, young man and her husband backs up her alibi, in turn, lying to protect his wife. Connie wonders why her husband takes this out-of-character, and illegal, action (for he is a lawyer) and soon unearths clues that piece together the story she knew nothing about, realising that her husband killed her lover. Now they share each other’s dark confidence. Edward offers to turn himself in but Connie rejects this idea, telling him that they will “get through this crisis together”. The pair decide to keep their respective secrets and move on with their lives. Later, Edward and Connie are in the car and find themselves, inert, at traffic lights that change from red to green and back again; this happens several times, as it’s revealed that they are outside a police station.

This is the short synopsis for the remake of Unfaithful (2002), directed by Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal), starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere. The script was adapted from the original La Femme Infidèle (1968) by that French master of the erotic drama, the late Claude Chabrol, and starred his wife, Stéphane Audran. Chabrol, who died just over a week ago, at the age of 80, was a member of the “nouvelle vague”, the French New Wave, along with his contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer and Jaques Rivette.

I’d really love to go into a debate and discussion here about the French film industry, and in particular, the funding of French film; did you know that a percentage of EVERY cinema ticket sale in France goes into a kitty, along with money from the national TV networks and government funding, to ensure that French language films survive? For if the French do not make films in their own tongue, who else will (save the Canadians and a few French-speaking colonies)? A staggering 200-250 feature films were made in France last year, and yet interestingly, an ongoing debate is gathering airspace and column inches as to whether this serves French filmmakers (and audiences) well or not? The argument goes something like this: ensuring that French film and the French film industry always remains alive and vibrant, guaranteeing a cinematic platform for French culture, and employment for local artistes is a great thing, but, does the “unearned” financial support cosset the French filmmakers and protect them from the vicissitudes of global tastes and commercial vagaries, leaving them in an artificial film vacuum, a filmic arena that whilst being highly individual is out of kilter with (maybe detrimentally so) with other parts of the film world?

Day #171 Tip: Tie a ribbon on your story
But, back to Unfaithful. That final moment at the traffic lights, is the fifth of the five-part story structure (offered by Mckee and other writing scholars), the Resolution or what the French call the dénouement: “...the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.” McKee offers that “a film needs what the theatre calls a ‘slow curtain’", even if it is open-ended.

The Resolution (or Denouement) can be an opportunity to tie up the loose ends of any incomplete subplots or, as Mr M suggests, “a second use of the Resolution is to show the spread of climactic effects”, after story’s “end”.

I think that this final “slow curtain” of Unfaithful (possibly a tad heavy-handed?), shows us the spread of the climactic events of Connie & Edward’s story, in that here is a husband and wife who both claim have acted out of “love” (even though misguided?) and now, in the spirit of love and commitment (they have a young son), are prepared to move forward with their lives, albeit in a covenant of guilt. But as the changing traffic lights show, for human beings to attempt that, might not be possible and maybe akin to only existing in some sort of living limbo, which I think, is a place called purgatory.

The things we do for l’amour.

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