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“Chronicle of a temporary affair”, a brief summary of the tangled relationship between the sexes

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Emmanuel Mouret, 51, a great practitioner of love algebra, of Marivaudian obedience, delivers with his 11and feature film a reduction to the bone of his cinema. The equation that it unfolds before our eyes is written in the most elementary terms: a man, a woman, the minimum required to tell a love story that is also a small summary of the tangled relationships between the sexes.

The whole film is deliciously woven with language gaps, stumbles in speech, chiseled irony

Simon (Vincent Macaigne) and Charlotte (Sandine Kiberlain) meet at a party, like each other, have a last drink, go home together. Everything is going so well that inevitably comes the question of seeing each other again. He, a married man, somewhat lacking in self-confidence, considers himself happy that such an affair is happening, but accepts his temporary nature, without daring to leave his home. She, a single and pragmatic mother, is ahead of him, declaring herself in favor of an adventure without the slightest tie. Fatuity of the moderns, Mouret chuckles as he observes from his classic position his characters sink, scene after scene, escapade after date, into the denial of a relationship much more lasting than they care to be. ‘admit.

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Chronicle of a temporary liaison retains of his characters only their hidden meetings, rejecting to his margins everything that does not belong directly to their relationship. Abstracted from the social field, it is told as if from the inside, as an experience limited in time, to the rhythm of sketches that punctuate its evolution. The filmmaker has fun reversing the traditional roles within the couple: the man, modest and reserved, willingly lapsing into self-deprecation, yields the initiative to a woman much bolder than him. But the complex described here is even more fun. Because they are determined not to get in each other’s way, not to make a scene, to get ahead of the other’s desire, even if it means overtaking it, Charlotte and Simon invent such a fluid relationship, and to be honest so perfect that it slips through their fingers. Funny situation this one, where two beings visibly in love do not stop anticipating the probable end of their affair, and end up precipitating it.

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Here as elsewhere, Mouret is not satisfied with running away from sentimental motifs for the sole pleasure of the form, of a very classic transparency and a formidable clarity of line. As a good “eighteenth-centuryist” (Mademoiselle de Joncquières was inspired by Diderot), the filmmaker offers a variation on a well-known problem of moral philosophy, that of the mismatch between wanting and doing. Why do Charlotte and Simon express themselves against what they each seem to deeply desire? Why do they converse in a fiction of practicality and rationality, when they clearly love each other, and this love obliges them? The whole film is deliciously woven with lapses in language, stumbles in speech, chiseled irony, like so many breaches revealing the whole unconscious part that works in the characters.

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