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VENICE 2020 Competition

Review: Lovers

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- VENICE 2020: Nicole Garcia signs an excellent film noir centred on a fatal love triangle and set against the backdrop of the attractive power of money in the modern world

Review: Lovers
Pierre Niney and Stacy Martin in Lovers (© Roger Arpajou)

“It’s your body that’s going over your head.” Replace “body” with “heart” and these febrile words of encouragement to a character having an overdose will give you a rather clear glimpse of the crux of the plot tainted with tragic passion that French filmmaker Nicole Garcia has developed in Lovers [+see also:
trailer
interview: Nicole Garcia
film profile
]
, a remarkably controlled film noir presented in competition at the 77th Venice Film Festival. It is indeed the fire of sentiments, internal conflicts and danger covered up with lies, the mysteries and the temptations of the world of money and luxury, that are at issue here, in the entanglement of three trajectories masterfully interpreted by Stacy Martin, Pierre Niney and Benoît Magimel.

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Structured in three chapters (“Paris,” “The Indian Ocean,” “Geneva”), the formidable story penned by Nicole Garcia and her co-screenwriter Jacques Fieschi takes its roots in the very contrasted daily lives of a young couple. Lisa (Stacy Martin) and Simon (Pierre Niney) love each other, but the latter’s posh neighbourhood dealing activities worry the young woman (“and what if one day it doesn’t go well?”), herself a student in a hotel school. Indeed, the lurking fatality (with a wink to Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing) strikes and Simon disappears, abandoning Lisa. Destroyed, she drifts by until she accepts a job in the locker room of a nightclub where one day appears, in the darkness, a man who has noticed her… An ellipsis takes us three years later, where we find Lisa again, passing through sunny Mauritius and married to the opaque Léo Redler (Benoît Magimel), a very wealthy forty-something insurance expert. But Simon reappears, and with him a spiral of emotions, questions, deceptions, doubts, choices and perils (because Léo himself has no shortage of hidden resources)...

Confronting the film noir genre directly for the first time (which she had sometimes approached by small touches in her previous films), Nicole Garcia manages to imbue it with her ability to work on the interiority of characters (and to offer beautiful roles to her three actors). A sombre tableau on passion, emptiness, freedom and the search for identity, doubled with a mirror on the pit of social classes and the state of the contemporary world (“she plays the game, but money isn’t enough”), it offers Garcia the entire palette of the hot and the cold, of suspense and the unspoken, of action and waiting, with a great formal control set in the stunning photography of Christophe Beaucarne and in the highly suggestive sets. Elegant and intense, and deserving of the title of modern classic, Lovers unfolds artfully (like the print The Wave by Hokusai, which we can glimpse in the film) the terrible balance between a vertiginous threat and human beings tossed about by the violent waters. A beautiful harmony between the thriller and the psychological auteur vein marks this oeuvre of maturity and plenitude for the director.

Produced by Les Films Pelléas and co-produced by France 3 Cinéma, Lovers is sold internationally by FTD (France Télévisions Distribution).

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(Translated from French by Manuela Lazic)

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