Les Destinees Sentimentales (Sentimental Destinies)

on September 13, 2000 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   One can see why skilled director Olivier Assayas ("Irma Vep") was attracted to Jacques Chardonne's historical novel; it's an intelligent drama that has all the juicy ingredients of exciting movies, including illicit love, the issue of women's rights and the changing face of early 20th century capitalism. Assayas' film adaptation of this epic is, however, decidedly uninvolving.

   Charles Berling is the central figure of this drama, Jean Barnery, a Protestant minister who, as the film begins, is newly estranged from his-possibly unfaithful-wife (Isabelle Huppert). Barnery's ambivalence about whether or not to dissolve his marriage complicates his life when he meets the independent Pauline (Emmanuelle Beart), with whom he falls in love. His life is further altered when he is chosen to run the Barnery porcelain factory.

   Though well acted and mounted, "Les Destinées Sentimentales" is a sluggish movie. It gets the details of its time frame right but it completely misses its emotions.    Starring Emmanuelle Beart, Charles Berling and Isabelle Huppert. Directed by Olivier Assayas. Written by Olivier Assayas and Jacques Fieschi. Produced by Bruno Pesery. No distributor set. Drama. French-language; subtitled. Running time: 180 min.

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