The Apartment (1996)

“One should never question fate.”

Max (Vincent Cassel) is due to leave on a business trip to Tokyo when he overhears a fraction of a telephone conversation. The voice seems oddly familiar, and he’s sure it’s his former girlfriend Lisa (Monica Bellucci) making the call, but when he looks for her, she’s already gone. Lisa, an actress, disappeared without explanation two years previously, and since then, Max has patched up his life, has a new job and is engaged to Muriel (Sandrine Kiberlain). But Max is ready to toss everything aside–his work responsibilities and his fiancee, in order to discover why Lisa disappeared two years previously.

Instead of taking a plane to Tokyo, Max, convinced that Lisa is somewhere in Paris, becomes obsessed with finding her. He hunts desperately for the elusive Lisa–picking up occasional tantalizing clues along the way. While he’s definitely hot on her trail, he always arrives just a few minutes too late. Max turns to his old friend, consummate bachelor Lucien (Jean-Philipe Ecoffey) for help, but it seems that Lucien is also heavily involved with another intriguing mystery woman, Alice (Romane Bohringer).

L’Appartement (The Apartment) is an intricate film, and it’s not something you can watch half-heartedly. As the film cleverly jumps back and forth in time, full attention is required to catch every subtle clue in this intriguing plot. I tend to get annoyed with gimmicky films that use complicated plot devices as a substitute for good cinema, but L’Appartement pays off. Stylistically, the film is a homage to Hitchcock, and the film also achieves the quality of a Hitchcock mystery. The film’s emphasis is on the tantalizing speculations of chance and fate, and seemingly small events are replayed later in the film to reveal their significance. Directed by Gilles Mimouni, L’Appartement is in French with English subtitles, and it is an extraordinarily good film. If you love French films and /or Hitchcock, then there’s an excellent chance you’ll enjoy L’Appartement. For those who dislike French cinema, Wicker Park is a remake of the original.

As an aside, the Lion’s Gate version’s subtitles are for the hard-of-hearing, so the subtitles include words for the sounds that occur (“phone ringing” etc). It’s annoying. Apparently the region 2 version does not have this fault, so if you have an all-region player, that’s the version to get.

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