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A Perfect Couple, April 21

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Friday, April 21, 2006
9:15 p.m. A Perfect Couple
Nobuhiro Suwa (France/Japan, 2005)

(Un couple parfait). In cinematic translation, as it is all too often in life, love is pain. In acclaimed director Nobuhiro Suwa's fourth feature, that exquisite pain is offered solemnly, sometimes wordlessly, for our consideration. Marie and Nicolas are sliding toward the end of their fifteen-year marriage when they arrive in Paris for a friend's wedding. Closeted in their shadowy hotel room, sleeping in separate beds, the tensions between them surface in broken conversations, sudden accusations and tired resentment. But this is no chatty Hollywood pas de deux. Instead, we become uncomfortable witnesses to the most intimate moments of emotional suffering. The camera follows Marie through the Rodin Museum, gazing in misery at the sculpted figure of a pregnant woman. The camera waits uncomfortably alongside Nicolas as he is cornered in a café by a sad-eyed old man's theories on love and war, then lingers in the distance as the two reach their final moment of reckoning on a railway platform. Suwa, known for crafting his work through collaboration and improvisation, draws beautiful performances from his French-speaking stars. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (5 x 2, SFIFF 2005) is mesmerizing as she takes Marie from exasperated laughter to heartbroken regret, framed in long takes in which her body language speaks volumes. Bruno Todeschini (Queen Margot) is both charming and infuriating as the husband struggling to break through his wife's defenses while already two steps ahead of her on his way out of the relationship. A rare French-Japanese film collaboration, A Perfect Couple won double honors at the Locarno International Film Festival for its unflinching gaze into a universal experience of loss.

—Deanna Quinones

• Written by Suwa. Photographed by Caroline Champetier. With Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Bruno Todeschini, Joana Preiss, Jacques Doillon. (104 mins)