Nathalie... (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/07/2004

Two out of Five stars

Nathalie is one of those oh so very FRENCH films where people sit around and talk a lot and nothing much actually happens. Strangely, it is thematically very similar to Patrice Leconte's recent film Confidences Trop Intimes, in which a character pretended to be a psychiatrist in order to listen to Sandrine Bonnaire's occasionally saucy confessions. Not all French films are like this, though, really - it's just a scheduling coincidence. Honest.

Fanny Ardant (Eight Women ) plays Catherine, a bourgeois, cultured woman married to her husband Bernard (Gerard Depardieu). When she discovers evidence of his infidelity she devises a strange plan to catch him out and hires "hostess" (okay, flash prostitute) Marlene (Emmanuelle Beart) to seduce Bernard and then report back with all the juicy details. However, the plan doesn't quite work out and Catherine finds herself strangely drawn to Marlene's revelations, to the point where she creates an entire personality ("Nathalie") for Marlene to become. But is Marlene telling the truth?

The main problem with Nathalie is that almost the entire film consists of Catherine and Marlene talking. Their conversations are meant to be erotic but are, more often than not, both pretentious and rather tedious. In addition, the 'twist' of the film won't surprise anyone who has managed to stay awake, which is a shame, because it ought to be a powerful moment, but instead it falls flat and the film seems anti-climactic as a result.

The characters themselves may be a bit annoying, but the film scores highly in terms of 'shallow and obvious reasons' - Emmanuelle Beart has never looked sexier and the film gains another star purely for how drop-dead gorgeous she is. Ardant is good too, though Depardieu is largely wasted, which is a shame. In fact, he's in it so little that it's practically an extended cameo.

The film does have a couple of compensations - the brothel scenes achieve an impressively balanced atmospheric mix of the seedy and the stylish. This is helped considerably by the soundtrack, which includes songs by Leonard Cohen and Natacha Atlas, as well as a score by Michael Nyman that is better than the material deserves.

In short, Nathalie is only really worth seeing if a) you missed Confidence Trop Intimes and are in dire need of a French film fix or b) you're an enormous fan of Emmanuelle Beart. Ultimately it isn't engaging enough to really work and the direction lacks the imagination that might have breathed some life into it.

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 10:26

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