MOVIE – The filmmakers who direct their wives in a movie are legion. The best example in the history of cinema is certainly the duo of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands who brought so much from their relationship to their art. The opposite is much rarer. Jolie appears almost as an exception to star in her movie alongside her husband, Brad Pitt.
Part of By the Sea is reminiscent of the mythical Voyage in Italy Roberto Rossellini, which starred his muse and wife Ingrid Bergman (well, well). An American couple at a crossroads of their life while trying to save their marriage by staying in a hotel near the French Mediterranean. An inconclusive attempt because the husband thinks only about writing his new book in the café / bar and the wife remains cloistered. Everything changes the day some newly arrived guests (Mélanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud): a young couple rents the room next to them.
Not in for the money
The most publicized and a glamorous couple of Hollywood: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were able to avoid the pitfalls of celebrity by playing over the years in generally good movies. Since all of their movies were pretty profitable, they can afford to miss a serious amount of revenue at the box office this time. This is how we have to look at this film, which is the opposite of their previous cooperation: Mr. & Mrs. Smith. This is a slow film, repetitive and devoid of action, where the apparently nonexistent scenario allows to understand better the suffering that binds these beings.
After two poor directing attempts (Unbroken and In the Land of Blood and Honey), Angelina Jolie completely changes register remaining in the privacy of his characters, which are beautifully performed by seasoned actors. Brad Pitt and Jolie are expert with showing slight intonations and moods or unsaid sentiments. Less present: Mélanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud are supposed to bring a freshness and eroticism to the table, but they remain surprisingly banal and dull. Perhaps the most interesting character is played by Niels Arestrup, who can personify humor and nostalgia with his old clichés about love.
A dying relationship
Sometimes too pressed, the story is nonetheless relatively interesting. A couple’s relationship dies, the weight of the past destroyed inches by inches and even if there are only beauty before them (the scenery is beautiful), it’s the darkness that has the last word.
Important topics in the movie are numerous: like alienation and difficulty to communicate – and they are not always adequately addressed by the director, who abuses camera movements to prove that she has a place in this business. Still, the creation of this climate is the real choking point. Interesting fact: the music, somewhat intrusive and melodramatic, is carried by a certain Serge Gainsbourg.
Some of its echoes – like the one of Michelangelo Antonioni are, however, a bit annoying. The suffocating hotel room reminds us The Passenger while the voyeuristic approach evokes Blow-Up. Still, the agonizing silence and the void of existence and boredom are the real protagonists of this story. A little more attention and we can spot allusions to other masterpieces like The adventure and the Night. Even the heroine looks a bit like the eternal Monica Vitti.
Jolie, the director
Despite these errors of taste, Angelina Jolie manages somewhat to be successful as a director in a genre where nobody expected her to succeed. With an art film about the alienation of a couple, vanity, and jealousy, she has the advantage of playing with the possibilities of this medium and communicate to the audience another form of cinema.