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My Wife Is An Actress
(Ma Femme Est Une Actrice)

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R (Language and Nudity/Sexuality)

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Yvan Attal, Terence Stamp, Noemie Lvosky, Laurent Bateau, Ludivine Sagnier, Lionel Abelanski, Keith Allen, Jo Mcinnes

Written and Directed by: Yvan Attal

 

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $29.95

Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Star Yvan Attal, Making-Of Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Trailers

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Scene Selections (28 Scenes)

Released: December 10th, 2002

 

 

Yvan (Yvan Attal) is a sportswriter who lives in Paris with his wife, a famous actress named Charlotte (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The two have a nice life together, even if Yvan is occassionally annoyed by a fan asking for an authograph when they're out in public or hearing people talking about his wife in a sexual manner. Yet their relationship is threatened when Charlotte takes a part in a movie and needs to relocate to London. The film that she's shooting also stars John (Terrence Stamp), an American actor who is more known for hooking up with the ladies rather than his acting. As Yvan travels back and forth between Paris and London to see his wife, he becomes increasingly jealous and paranoid. Will Charlotte be able to resist John's temptations, or is Yvan's life ruined?

I was dying to see "My Wife Is An Actress" when it opened here in the States during summer 2002, and while I missed my chance, I'm quite happy it made its way to DVD rather quickly so I could see it. And now that I have, I must say this is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying romantic comedies that I have seen in a long time. Hell, I'll even go as far as saying this is one of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen and ranks as a new classic in my book. Even though critics were mainly mixed on "My Wife Is An Actress," I really think that it is just a wonderful little movie. Don't let the plot fool you though: even if you are not married or involved with someone famous, there is a lot to relate to here.

A lot of you probably are unaware that Yvan Attal and Charlotte Gainsbourg are actually both famous actors in their native country France and are married in real life (plus they have two kids). And while there have been many famous couples who have worked together either on the screen, behind the scenes or a mix of both (one acts, one directs, etc.), it all still leads me to believe that this is a very personal film for Yvan Attal. There's no doubt in my mind that he drew upon his own experiences of being famous, his wife being famous and his own feelings of insecuirity for the script. The main story itself is very well told, as we get a feel for the characters and the constant forces that are building upon poor Yvan. The dialogue is snappy and it all feels very well fleshed out. The film is also funny, as there is sheer hilarity and originality in Charlotte's on-set demand, the subplot with Yvan's sister and Yvan himself as he tries to relate or alienate himself from others who lust for his wife. Still, the themes of jealousy and being true to your lovers resonate strongly throughout the film and are quite effective - even if you have experienced it for yourself or if it's been tackled in other films before. That's probably why the movie is able to strike such personal chords within its audience.

Yvan Attal also makes his directorial debut here, and it's simply fantastic. Besides capturing wondrous intimate shots and a feel for the dual big cities the film takes place in, the film is even in nature and keeps going - there is never a dull moment to be had. I always wanted to know what happened next which is always something good, and I found myself caring for the characters of Yvan and Charlotte which is always something great. In all, this is an impressive directorial effort that feels really natural. What else can I say besides that Yvan Attal is a true screen force? On two different notes, the editing is nicely done and the fine jazz-infested score from Brad Mehldau sounds great.

The acting is nothing short of flawless. Which you'd probably expect anyway, since all the actors are so talented and in Yvan and Charlotte's case, they are more or less playing some version of themselves. Yvan and Charlotte have perfect screen chemistry - the kind you really can't replicate - because they are married and know one another so well. Obviously, that works favorably for the film and it's quite wonderful. In seperate though, Yvan is well-meaning but paranoid, capturing a raw intensity as he worries that his wife is cheating on him. Charlotte, meanwhile, is calm, sweet but also is a bit self-concious. Terrence Stamp is quite good and articulate as usual. Even though he's good in the role as John, I feel he might have been miscast. Supporting performances from Laurent Bateat, Moemie Lvosky, keith Allen and Lionel Abelanski also help make a wonderful ensemble.

I hate to nitpick because I really enjoyed the film, but some things in the film didn't go well over with me. For one, the subplot involving Yvan's sister and her husband involving Judaism and having a baby is actually really amusing and fits well within the themes of the movie, it just felt a little bit tacked-on. This is probably because there's a rather big emphasis on it toward the start of the movie, there's no mention or focus of it in the middle and then it all wraps up toward the end of the movie. Even if this is Yvan's story, I guess I liked it so much that I wanted more. It works, but it also feels uneven at the same time.

I guess my other nitpicks are minor. I found it disturbing that all these characters smoke when they're pregnant. Sure, cigarettes are an addicting habit, but can't these people quit for the sake of their future children? The characters who get pregnant are going to find birth defects in their children. Yeesh. And while I'm not exactly familiar with France's mindset or anything, if Charlotte is such a big star, why does she go out in public so much exposing herself without really disguising herself? Shouldn't more people be mobbing her and shouldn't there be papparazzi following her? Finally, Terrence Stamp. Don't get me wrong, he's a great screen presence and an excellent actor, but I just didn't buy him as a man any girl would swoon for. Yeah, I know some girls love older men and all of that... but in the film, Stamp doesn't come off irresitable or suave - just as a normally aged man. Then again, even if this movie is rather realistic, it's still only a movie.

In all though, there's so much great stuff here and I will probably pull this movie out often to watch and watch again. "My Wife Is An Actress" does rank as one of my favorite films of the year 2002, and is just a wonderful, endearing and rather hilarious romantic comedy. Don't be intimidated that it's a foreign flick: you surely won't find a better date movie or romantic comedy on the video/DVD shelf.

 

"My Wife Is An Actress" sports a pretty decent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. It's too bad there are way too many flaws and that this print should have been cleaned up. The transfer has a lot of nicks, blemishes, scratches and pieces of dirt that pop up constantly. They seem to pop up more and more toward the second half of the film, which is downright annoying. The image is quite grainy, but I think the film was pretty low budget, so it might be a result of that. The image is also a bit soft at times, not to mention the edge enhancment that can be seen as well as halo edges and noise here and there. Still, there is much to like about the transfer. Fleshtones look very nice and realistic, color saturation looks fitting and bold and detail is quite good. There are many instances when a lot of the transfer looks really clear as well. In all, the transfer's constant flaws diminish but don't totally ruin watching the movie.

 

A French 5.1 Dolby Digital track is the only audio option included on the disc, but this could pass as a Dolby Surround track. This is one of the more weaker 5.1 mixes I've heard in awhile. Yes, "My Wife Is An Actress" is a dialogue based film, but there are plenty of opportunities for surrounds that aren't a fleshed out as they probably could be. Sure, the dialogue sounds clear and crisp, but there aren't really many surrounds to clutter what the characters are saying. Sure, there is some slight stuff like people in the background on the movie set Charlotte is on or some noises in the several train rides Yvan takes, but those moments are seldom and really don't enrapture you more into the film. The music sounds nice, but its mixing is standard and doesn't add much. Subwoofer use is also pretty rare. Fidelity is quite good too and the dynamics are there, but even if this is a more quiet film in some respects, there were chances to expand on some sounds. English subtitles accompany the French track, and they are not burned in to the image. But to my disappointment, the subtitles disappear when characters speak English (and there is a good deal of that). Also surprising, there are no English closed captions via television sets, a standard on Columbia/Tristar DVD releases.

 

Very nice! Columbia/Tri-Star has put together a very stellar package for this DVD release, and that makes me incredibly happy. I'm glad they had the opportunity to add supplements, because many foreign flicks on DVD get shafted in this department.

The highlight of this disc is definitely the Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Star Yvan Attal. The commentary is in French and English subtitles are provided in case you don't speak the language. Attal has a great sense of humor (his opening is nothing short of hilarious) and there are no real moments of silence, which is the type of commentary I enjoy: he always has something to say and doesn't get wrapped up watching the film, and everything he says is pretty much golden. It's amazing how he jumps from dry wit to serious production stories seamlessly. He talks about the film's budget, talks about shooting montage footage, points out cameos from his own family, technical details (he doesn't sound like a first time director!) and even why he finds the film flawed. This is really one of the best commentaries I've heard yet. It's funny, is detailed on all aspects of the production and is very insightful. Like the film itself, I was enthralled from start to finish. If you liked the movie, this is truly a must listen.

The Making-Of Featurette lasts a little over sixteen minutes and is excellent. It's in French and I believe it was made or used in some way for the French DVD. This isn't promotional in any sense, and it's a nicely put together, if rather open-ended, look at the making of the movie. Presented in full frame with non-anamorphic film clips, all of this is in French (like the film itself and other supplements on the disc) with English subtitles. Here, we have some nifty behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. Yvan Attal talks quite candidly about making the movie, music in the film and his own experiences that made it into the film in some way, Charlotte Gainsbourg puts in her own insights and even Yvan's stand-in/stunt guy gets his moment in the spotlight. There's even a home movie montage of sorts that involves Yvan sitting around at the end. If you liked the movie, this is a must watch. Great stuff.

Four Deleted Scenes are included. They're in French and also subtitled in English (except when characters do speak English, just like in the movie), plus they're in non-anamorphic widescreen (boo). These scenes are in rough shape, and even have the time markers on them and the whole "take/action" stuff before they start and even during them when there is supposed to be some editing or whatnot (sometimes Yvan gives advice as well - these really are rough, at times almost like outtakes). There is no commentary from Yvan or anything, but after watching these scenes, it's a pretty clear why they didn't make it to the final film.The scenes range from short ("The Hip Restauraunt") to quick little stuff ("The Trailer Home" and "The Train") and finally, long ("The London Cab"). The scenes end up totalling around 14 minutes.

There are also some Trailers. One is for "My Wife Is An Actress," while others are for nifty foreign/indie flicks. There's "Crush," "Talk To Her," "The Lady and the Duke," "Ya Savior," "Son of the Bride" and "13 Conversations About One Thing."

 

"My Wife Is An Actress" is a wonderfully charming romantic comedy that feels rather fresh and has a unique perspective. While the DVD's 5.1 mix is nothing amazing and the transfer is a bit above standard, the excellent supplements included with this release make up for the presentation. If you're a lover of foreign films or in the mood for something a bit different when it comes to romantic comedies, then "My Wife Is An Actress" is certainly a must see.