A Simple Story -- K-B Janus, Outer Circle.

Simple is right. Simplicity is what you call a high level of unadorned beauty, and also what you call a low level of understanding.Claude Sautet's "A Simple Story," the French entry for an Academy Award, is distinguished by both.

The film stars Romy Schneider as a woman caught in the epidemic of mid-life crises that has been going around in books and films for some time now. At the age of 39, she must decide whether she wants a man in her life and, if so, whom; and whether she wants a last baby and, if so, whose.

The only reason anyone might care what she decides is that Schneider is simply beautiful. She looks so fresh, clean and neat, with her face scrubbed and her hair pulled back behind her ears, that she seems to embody a rare purity in the messiness of modern life.

But that perception of life is an annoyingly simplistic one. Every women in the film is on her own, in work and at home, because there can never be such a thing as a good marriage or a rich family life. And the reason for this is that while one sex is shown as being characteristically hard-working, responsible, stalwart, loyal and sensual, the other sex -- the male sex -- is pictured as being entirely composed of people who are flighty, selfish, aimless, fickle, insecure and incapable of real friendship, much less love.

All of the characters work for the same company, hang out in the same bar after work, and take their holidays at the same country house. All, except the country hosts, are divorced. (They are an apparently happy couple, but this turns out to be a sham.) But the slow, low-keyed -- simple -- style of the movie suggest that these are not a bunch of drifters but representatives of modern middle-class society.

And they expect to be handed simple solutions for all of life's problems. No one ever works a problem through, because it's easier to have an abortion, go away, get drunk, pick up some quick money through part-time prostitution or commit suicide.

In a world that over-simplified, personifying simple goodness involves no more than managing to look serenely beautiful while being drunk, desperate or both.