(Cinq fois deux)

         While the output of French filmmaker François Ozon arguably
 has been uneven, one thing remains certain: female actors have
 flourished under his auspices. In his latest,
5x2, Valeria
 Bruni-Tedeschi delivers a startling and subtle performance.

         The template for
5x2 is a combination of Ingmar Bergman’s
SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE crossed with the Harold
 Pinter play
“Betrayal.” Bergman’s television miniseries examined a
 relationship between a husband and wife in intimate, minute detail
 (there was an edited version released theatrically in the United
 States in the 1970s), while Pinter’s play focused on adultery.
 Ozon’s movie combines both in a manner that is both surprising
 and predictable.

         The director's stated intention was to tell the tale of a
 relationship from its bitter breakup to its throes of first love. In
 five scenes, Ozon details events in the relationship of Marion
 (Bruni-Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stéphane Freiss).

         The film opens with the couple before a judge facing the
 dissolution of their marriage. Afterward all the papers are signed
 and the divorce is granted, they retire to a hotel room for one
 last time, but things take a dark turn, particularly after Marion
 has second thoughts. The Gilles the audience sees is not
 a particularly nice guy and the sentiment and support shifts
 to Marion. But for how long?

         Ozon then flashes back a couple of years to a dinner party
 for Gilles’ gay brother Christophe (Antoine Chappey) and his
 current lover Mathieu (Marc Ruchmann). Marion makes a special
 effort to look attractive, inspiring jealousy in her husband. After
 imbibing too much wine, and prompted by Mathieu’s questions,
 Gilles offers a startling revelation which Marion shyly confirms.
 (It’s left to the audience to decide whether they are telling the
 truth or not.)

         Each subsequent episode plays out at a key point in the
 relationship. There are the events surrounding the birth of
 the couple’s son, a moment with Marion facing a health crisis
 and Gilles’ inability or unwillingness to help. Her bickering but
 loving parents (well played by Françoise Fabien and Michael
 Lonsdale) are there to support their daughter, and perhaps
 they are meant to be seen as the couple Marion and Gilles
 might become.

         The audience also sees the couple’s wedding night, when
 Gilles has had too much to drink and passes out in the bridal
 suite, leaving a frustrated Marion to take a walk which in turn
 leads to an encounter with a stranger.

         The final sequence details the couple’s first meeting while
 on vacation. Gilles is on holiday with his lover Valerie (Géraldine
 Pailhas), while Marion has seemingly chosen the place at random …
 or has she? There’s more than an implication that she deliberately
 picked that resort because it was where Gilles would be and she
 certainly turns her feminine charms on while in his presence.
 Obviously the seduction works, since they eventually marry.

         Bruni-Tedeschi shines in the complicated and difficult role
 of Marion. This is among her best work, relaxed, confident, and
 sexy. Freiss has the more difficult role, in part because Gilles
 is often unsympathetic. The character’s motivations are not
 always apparent either and that’s a drawback to an otherwise
 interesting film.

            Rating:                B
            MPAA Rating:        R for strong graphic sexuality, language
                                              and some drug content
            Running time:              90 mins.

                            Viewed at Magno Review Two
©  2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.