Nenette And Boni

If it were lopped into manageable, five-minute chunks, the shimmering neon surfaces and teasingly enigmatic behavior in Nenette And Boni could be turned into a number of fine music videos. But over the course of a full-length film, director Claire Denis' (Chocolat) seductive visuals, however well-sustained, fail to keep frustration from setting in, as characters roam free of motivation and loose ends dangle. Nenette And Boni is most inspired when imagining the vivid daydream fantasies in Confessions Of A Wimp, a diary of erotic scenarios invented by a 19-year-old pizza chef (Grégoire Colin) who lusts after the voluptuous wife (Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi) of a local baker. His private world is ruptured when his estranged younger sister (Alice Houri) re-enters his life, pregnant with a child whose father may or may not be their own. In style, tone, and theme, Nenette And Boni could be mistaken for the work of great Canadian director Atom Egoyan (Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter), who also explores the ambiguous ties of modern families in obsessive, hypnotic detail. But in her dogged refusal to clarify the feelings her title characters have for one another—resentful at times, affectionate at others—Denis is guilty of the chilly aesthetic posturing critics often attribute to Egoyan. Despite an alluring set-up and heartfelt performances from the leads, nothing ultimately coheres, and mood trumps logic on every occasion.

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