“I’ve read about drunken girl gangs.”
Directed by Alain Resnais Private Fears in Public Places weaves together the interconnecting stories of a disparate group of lonely French singles while examining loneliness and the inability to communicate as fatal obstacles to intimacy. The result is a very clever film that resonates long after the credits roll. Private Fears in Public Places at first seems to treat its subjects superficially (and this is underscored by the often hearted handling of the subject matter), but now days after watching the film, I am still mulling over the characters’ actions.
Paris real estate agent, Thierry (Andre Dussollier) shows a series of apartments to Nicole (Laura Morante), but her fiancé Dan (Lambert Wilson), ex-army and now unemployed argues that everything she finds is too small. He insists he needs a study for undefined purposes. Meanwhile, Thierry’s coworker–single, religious Charlotte (Sabine Azema) insists on sharing inspirational videotapes. These tapes are a yawn fest to Thierry, until he discovers something rather surprising. In the meantime, Thierry’s lonely sister Gaelle (Isabelle Carre) goes on a series of blind dates.
Dan avoids Nicole and the impending crisis in their relationship by hanging out at a local bar. The only person Dan can connect with is bartender, Lionel (Pierre Arditi), and while Lionel is not exactly paid to listen to his customers’ stories of woe, this goes along with the territory. Lionel, however, has problems of his own, and he employs Charlotte to mind his demented father while he works shifts at the bar.
Based on a play from the nimble mind of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn (and if you ever get a chance to see one of his plays performed, grab the opportunity), the light comic approach belies the seriousness of the subject matter. What could so easily have become a depressing dissection of the inherent loneliness of city lives is tempered with humour. The short scenes end with snow falling. Yes it’s winter in Paris, but the characters also live in a frosty state of emotionally barren lives. Thierry and his sister may share a flat, but they crawl into their own little corners, sharing little. Charlotte creates a façade that covers some much more interesting behaviour, and Dan cannot vocalize his unhappiness in spite of Nicole’s repeated attempts. In French with subtitles, this is another marvelous film from Resnais.