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La Séparation


La Séparation

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The gradual dissolution of a marriage—beginning with one seemingly insignificant gesture and escalating into much larger betrayals— is portrayed with surgical exactitude in Christian Vincent's La Séparation. Isabelle Huppert (Amateur, The School Of Flesh) and Daniel Auteuil (My Favorite Season), both exceptional French actors, share the uncanny ability to communicate their characters' internal lives through subtle postures and facial expressions. Unlike other films about troubled unions, even great ones such as A Woman Under The Influence and Husbands And Wives, their marriage rarely breaks down into raw histrionics; it's more like a cancer, a slowly accumulating mass of irreconcilable differences. Their problems first surface at a movie theater when Auteuil reaches for Huppert's hand and, irritated, she coldly rebuffs him. Later in the evening, she confesses that she's fallen in love with another man, news he seems to accept with peculiar nonchalance. Understanding that a divorce would mean losing custody of his infant son, Auteuil tries to maintain his civility and save his marriage, despite his obvious frustration and rage. The "other man" never makes an appearance in La Séparation, which both intensifies the domestic conflict and suggests that Huppert's affair is only a symptom of a more devastating prospect for Auteuil: A permanent rift, while painful in its own right, would also distance him from his home and son, a loss Vincent poignantly captures through a video diary. The image of the father hovering over his sleeping child with a camera, knowing that the footage will be his only semblance of connection in the future, is one of La Séparation's most piercing revelations.