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50th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Tuesday, May 1, 2007
7:00 p.m. Private Fears in Public Places
Alain Resnais (France/Italy, 2006)

(Coeurs). A steady snowfall sweeps over Paris, but the frigid weather is nothing compared to the icy loneliness that grips the hearts of six loosely connected people in Alain Resnais's adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play. When realtor Thierry shows a remodeled apartment to Nicole in the fashionable Bercy neighborhood, a wall erected to turn a large bedroom into two cell-like chambers symbolizes the characters' essential isolation. Back at the office, Thierry flirts with his oblivious Christian coworker Charlotte. As Nicole and her ex-soldier boyfriend Dan search for a bigger flat, they begin to realize that their real problem is not their cramped quarters, but that Dan prefers confessing his troubles to hotel bartender Lionel over talking to Nicole. Away from the bar, Lionel cares for his dying, bedridden father, who repays his son's devotion with abuse. And every night Thierry's younger sister Gaelle waits in a café to meet the man who will change her life. Resnais, whose masterworks include Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad, won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival for this restrained drama, his second stab at an Ayckbourn play following his adaptation of Intimate Exchanges into the double shot of Smoking and No Smoking (SFIFF 1994). His Paris is no romantic City of Light, but a chilly, modern expanse of elegant spaces in which people struggle to connect with one another. The ensemble, comprising mostly Resnais veterans, movingly portrays their characters' vain yet hopeful attempts to find love in the face of urban alienation.

—Pam Grady

• Written by Jean-Michel Ribes. Photographed by Eric Gautier. With Sabine Azéma, Lambert Wilson, André Dussollier, Pierre Arditi. (120 mins)