Fr 1998, dir. Cedric Kahn, 120m

Kahn’s engaging adaptation of Albert Moravia’s novel La Noia (translated in English as Empty Canvas) showcases a remarkable performance from Sophie Guillemin as Ccilia, a precocious Paris teenager whose torrid romance with anguished intellectual Martin (Charles Berling) is the most relentlessly sexual screen relationship this side of Ai No Corrida. But in every other regard, this couple have zero in common: he’s an insecure chatterbox who must justify his every action in philosophical and moral terms. She’s as as monosyllabic as she is cheerfully amoral, making no bones about the fact that she’s “cheating” on Martin with a lad of her own age, Momo – who is constantly referred to but, amusingly, only briefly glimpsed. Though the film is seldom laugh-out-loud funny, it has a jagged, energetic streak of humour as Martin drives himself into agonies of self-doubt and jealousy. It’s as if Woody Allen had shacked up with Monica Lewinsky. Berling is convincing in a difficult, motormouth role, Guillemin so fresh and unaffected you suspect Kahn grabbed her off the street and shoved her onto his set. Though it’s a long, refreshingly complex piece of work, L’Ennui is also fast-paced, unpredictable, and handled with a loose, unobtrusive confidence by Kahn, right up to its satisfyingly bold flourish of an ending.

by Neil Young
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