The first genuine hit in Alain Resnais' career (1981) takes off from the behaviorist theories of French scientist Henri Laborit, which are illustrated by the stories of three separate characters (Gerard Depardieu, Roger Pierre, and Nicole Garcia), each of whom identifies with a different French movie star and whose lives occasionally cross. While the quasi-determinist theories of Laborit (who occasionally appears on-screen to lecture us in a white lab coat) are never very interesting or persuasive, the film can never really be reduced to them. What matters here is the fluidity of Resnais and screenwriter Jean Gruault's masterful storytelling; they manage to convey a dense, multilayered narrative with remarkable ease and simplicity. The film is also memorable for its dead-on portrayal of French yuppiedom in its early ascendancy and for its beautifully ambiguous and open-ended finale. 123 min.
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