“He took the bait.”
Gynecologist, Catherine (Fanny Ardant) discovers hard evidence that her husband, Bernard (Gerard Depardieu) is having an adulterous affair. She confronts him, and he reluctantly admits that he’s “occasionally” unfaithful. The details he gives Catherine are vague and sketchy, and the lack of intimacy in their relationship increases with Bernard’s admission. Instead of demanding details of the affairs, Catherine nurses the shock. In the aftermath of Catherine’s new knowledge, she quietly reevaluates her marriage and Bernard.
One evening, Catherine enters a bar. The bar is full of girls who host clients of both sexes in the rooms upstairs. One of the girls, Marlene (Emmanuelle Beart) approaches Catherine, and they strike up a conversation. Catherine employs Marlene to approach and seduce Bernard. Marlene posing as “Nathalie” is then to return to Catherine and give her the details.
Nathalie is an interesting twist on the old adultery story. Catherine, the wronged wife, nurses her anguish, and then converts it into something peculiar. She selects a woman she finds extremely attractive, and then gives this woman the task of seducing Bernard. Is she motivated to get the details she just imagines? Is employing Nathalie an attempt to control her husband’s sexuality? Is a warped revenge at the heart of Catherine’s conduct or is Nathalie a surrogate?
While the film is not for the easily offended, it’s more an intellectual exercise in human sexuality–there are a couple of sex scenes, but sex is talked about more than actually committed. While the very best French films don’t provide a definitive answer, Nathalie has a vagueness that leaves a certain lingering dissatisfaction. In spite of the fact that Emmanuelle Beart in lingerie is pivotal to the film’s promotion, this is Fanny Ardant’s film. Nathalie is ultimately a woman’s film with adultery presented from the female viewpoint–make no mistake about that. If you enjoy this film, I’d also recommend another film from director Anne Fontaine, Dry Cleaning. Nathalie is in French with English subtitles.