Belvaux's Trilogy: Intricately woven but separately worn

To recap: Lucas Belvaux's precocious trifecta is an adventure in simultaneity rather than progression; the three films can be viewed in any order (although their U.S.-release arrangement works nicely, and some sequences are less rewarding than others); but each film depends upon the two others not only for narrative depth and clarification but for its very raison d'être ("Triple Thread," January 28-February 3). The whole of The Trilogy is self-defined as being much larger than the sum of its parts, and to see only one or even two of the films is to squander your month's art-film dollars. Genuinely trilateral, the movies—the third of which opens this week—are satellites without a central hub, chasing each other.

Close for comfort in After the Life
photo: Magnolia Pictures
Close for comfort in After the Life

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The Trilogy: On the Run, An Amazing Couple, After the Life
Written and directed by Lucas Belvaux
Magnolia
After the Life opens February 13, Angelika

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Belvaux has mentioned Lawrence Durrell, and he makes implicit reference in the films to Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Doulos and Le Cercle Rouge, but The Trilogy might just be unique. Whether or not the three-ticket investment is worth it to you depends upon your capacity for appreciating how the material is knitted together, not the material itself. Belvaux's characters and scenarios flirt with TV-drama cliché. Still, the structure should be catnip for audiences happily besotted with the relatively banal plot twists of The Usual Suspects, The Hours, and 21 Grams. Belvaux's hardier, more complex creation in effect creates a fourth movie in your skull that overshadows the first three, and runs for weeks.

 
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