Intimate Strangers Directed by Patrice Leconte
Paramount Classics, opens July 30
Patrice Leconte certainly knows his audience. Like much of his work of the past 15 years, his latest is a bland chamber drama for those who like their French cinema tame, talky, and just a little titillating. En route to a psychiatrist's appointment, a suburban housewife (Sandrine Bonnaire) mistakenly walks into a financial planner's office and begins divulging her life story to an accountant (Fabrice Luchini). The middle-aged man is too baffled to stop her but becomes sufficiently intrigued to assent to another meeting. Their subsequent "sessions" are intended to be suspenseful (will he tell her the truth?) and ambiguous (could she already know?). But the real question is: Do we even care? As in Leconte's previous collaboration with Bonnaire, Monsieur Hire, a gregarious belle becomes enamored of a reclusive bête. Leconte shies away from voyeurism's darker undercurrents, delivering a chaste, sentimental romance. The inestimable Bonnaire coasts on her enigmatic beauty. With a killer résumé (Rivette, Varda, Téchiné, Doillon, and Pialat), her work here is best viewed as a hard-earned day at the beach.