Is Nathalie's love triangle bizarreor just ridiculous? Not long after hubby Bernard (Gérard Depardieu) fails to materialize for his own surprise party, wife Catherine (Fanny Ardent) hires a slinky prostitute-stripper (Emmanuelle Béart). It's not for herself, nor for a three-way, but to get an inside glimpse into her spouse's womanizing ways. Renamed Nathalie, the pouty hired gun reports on her seduction of Bernard and their subsequent hotel room antics to handsome but frigid Catherine. An OB-GYN like the inhibited Cruise character in Eyes Wide Shut, she derives her own cryptic satisfaction from the encountersménage à trois as therapy. (At times, Nathalie suggests a more louche version of Patrice Leconte's I'm-not-a-shrink-I'm-a-financial-adviser confession-fest, Intimate Strangers.) "It's too banal to talk about," Bernard says about his affairsa risky line for a film that's about the pleasures and terrors of narrative. Neither spouse mentions Nathalie to the other. As Bernard's involvement with Nathalie escalates, so does Catherine's: When she learns that Bernard wants to make Nathalie a kept woman, she rents a place for her; the two pal around at a funky disco; salon-trained Nathalie cuts Catherine's mom's hair. Nathalie is intricate, provocative, cleanly acted, but it's never entirely convincingand never more so than in the table-turning climax.
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