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‘Too Beautiful for You’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 13, 1990

There's a moment in Bertrand Blier's "Too Beautiful for You" that's almost worth the price of admission. Gerard Depardieu has been trying to avoid Schubert's music because it affects him too deeply. But it seems to be playing wherever he goes. Now, as he sits in his dining room and another peal of Schubert comes wafting over, he strides towards the source of the noise, his eyes blazing, his beleaguered face appealing to the heavens and he bellows, "Oooh la la la la!"

But this amusingly desperate moment is an all too rare occurrence in Blier's artsy-Frenchy movie, which takes his -- and France's -- favorite plot device, the extramarital affair, and plays with it. As with most of Blier's work, there's an air of self-congratulation in "Beautiful," as though the director is so tickled pink with the topsy-turvy spin he has put on that familiar wife-mistress scenario -- in which husband Depardieu eschews model-beautiful Carole Bouquet for plain-Jane secretary Josiane Balasko -- he doesn't need to do more than riff endlessly on a theme.

That riffing reaches a feverish high, as Blier jumps around in time and place and intermixes reality and fantasy. It's narrative discombobulation posing as art, French art of course: Now Depardieu and Bouquet are at dinner with guests, now Depardieu flashes back to his wedding with Bouquet, now he's sleeping with his mistress.

"What exactly is going on between us?" Depardieu asks Balasko. It's a good question.

Though "Beautiful" in some ways shows Blier at the height of his directorial powers (it's an incredibly good-looking film and it acts, at least, as if it knows what it's doing), it mostly demonstrates what a dwindling breadbasket of ideas the French director has regularly dipped into. The movie seems calculated to please those for whom inscrutability equals artistic depth.

All three lead performances are earnest and strong, but it's cinematographer Philippe Rousselot who's the real star. His images move between eerie, pristine blues and warm, sunlit yellows; his camera moves around, it watches the events from above, it watches from below. But his impressive work becomes too beautiful a distraction and merely reminds us that Rousselot is futilely searching for a much greater movie than is actually there.

"Too Beatiful for You" is in French with English subtitles.

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