Post coïtum animal triste

on February 13, 1998 by Ed Scheid
   This film's title is a quotation from the Roman poet Ovid about unhappiness following lovemaking, and it's an apt expression of the movie's theme of the painful effects of a love affair. Diane (director/co-writer Brigitte Rouan) is 40ish and comfortable in her relationships with her lawyer husband (Patrick Chesnais) and two teenage sons. She is successful as an editor in a small publishing house. Yet Diane begins an affair with Emilio (Boris Terral), a hydraulic engineer about 20 years younger, and her overwhelming passion for Emilio begins to dominate her life--to the point that she risks losing both her family and her career. She misses important meetings after she secretly brings Emilio along on a crucial business trip. Ironically, as her husband finds out about the affair, he is defending an old woman who killed her unfaithful husband with a dinner fork.
   As in "Overseas," Rouan's previous acting/directorial/co-writing effort, "Post Coitum: Animal Triste" develops a diverse group of characters. The screenplay examines the effects Diane's affair has on the people in her life. This makes the film more intriguing than are conventional films about romantic triangles that focus only on the lovers, and Rouan's direction seamlessly combines a variety of moods that correspond to Diane's volatile emotional state. She skillfully includes an imaginative fantasy of the euphoric Diane as she begins her involvement with Emilio.
   The film is dominated by the raw intensity of Rouan's performance. Rouan's unflinching camera reveals both Diane's intimate feelings as well as the hysteria that eventually develops as the affair ends. Rouan's efforts are also supported by a fine cast. Chesnais makes the husband a sympathetic figure who hopes his wife will return to the stability of her family, and Nils Tavernier is particularly good as a novelist who gets over his writer's block by fictionalizing Diane's story.    Starring Brigitte Rouan, Patrick Chesnais, Boris Terral and Nils Tavernier. Directed by Brigitte Rouan. Written by Brigitte Rouan, Santiago Amigorena, Jean-Louis Richard, Guy Zilberstein and Philippe Le Guay. Produced by Humbert Balsan. Drama. French-language; English subtitles. Running time: 99 min.
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