Gloria, directed by Sebastián Lelio (2013)

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GloriaGloria (Paulina Garcia) believes that love is the anodyne to death. As she stands in a little crowd on a street in Santiago, watching a skeleton puppet’s jerky dance, she makes up her mind to forgive Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), her spineless lover.

Rodolfo is evidently smitten with the auburn-haired Gloria, whom he has recently met at a club and taken to bed. Intimacy involves removing his bellyband, the result of intestinal bypass surgery for weight management. She takes this unromantic development in her stride.

Gloria thrives in love, bungee jumping and playing paintball at the amusement park Rodolfo owns and waxing her legs while singing romantic ballads along with the radio. Introducing him as her partner, she brings him to a small family reunion to celebrate the birthday of her son, a new father whose wife has abandoned him, and to say farewell to her daughter, who is departing for Sweden to be with her lover. As the glasses are filled and refilled, Gloria and her ex-husband laugh together over old photographs, moved by the mingled pain and happiness suffusing the room.

Suddenly everyone realizes that Rodofo has departed without a word, apparently miffed at the momentary straying of Gloria’s attention. She is humiliated and angered by his rudeness and immaturity, refusing to answer his begging messages. Then she sees the skeleton dance and picks up the phone.

To make it up to her, Rodolfo takes Gloria to a seaside resort. It is paradise, until his daughter calls him home to take care of his clinging ex-wife, who has had a minor (perhaps intentional) accident. Gloria begins to pack her bags. No, no, I am not going, he promises her. Perhaps to test his mettle, Gloria strips, rips off his protective bellyband, and mounts him.

At a candlelit dinner that evening, his mobile buzzes. Gloria laughingly lobs it into his soup. He excuses himself to use the restroom and never returns. Devastated but not defeated, she slams down a few screwdrivers and parties the night away, waking at dawn on the beach in somebody’s dinner jacket.

Back in Santiago, she unplugs the phone, vacuums her car, and showers. Then she sets out to the wedding of a friend’s daughter. As if on an intuition, she walks out to the terrace. There a white peacock magestically opens his fan for her. Similar in size and color, with feathers instead of bones, he is the opposite of the skeleton puppet and a sign of life’s wonder. Back in the dining room, Gloria’s friends call from the dance floor for her to join them. She does, at first moving hesitantly, then at last joyously. Life is the anodyne to death.

Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle), directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, adapted from the graphic novel Le Bleu est une couleur chaude, by Julie Maroh

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Are the sex scenes in Blue Is the Warmest Color too long? Are they an appropriation of lesbian sexuality for the viewing pleasure of the general public?

In a blog post written in May, Julie Maroh, who authored the graphic novel on which the film is based, described the film as as a “brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex.” In addition, Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, who play the lovers at the center of the story, accused the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, of mistreatment during filming, when (among other things) he reputedly exhorted the exhausted actresses, “Hit her! . . . Lick her snot!” Mr. Kechiche has responded by insisting that the actresses have no idea what mistreatment is, compared to working class French Arabs such as himself who are trying to make their way in the world.

In fact, the film is brilliant portrayal of first love—at least for the teenage Adele, if not for the more sophisticated art student, Emma—in which the lovers discover in each other a new world incarnate. Their love-making extends beyond pleasure to a voracious (Adele’s word) impulse to consume, incorporate, and merge with each other. If it becomes frantic and mechanical, this is what sex is like after the third or fourth orgasm: a kind of delirious agony.

Consciously or not, Mr. Kechiche revisits ground previously laid out by feminist filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman and Jane Campion, who in the films Je, tu, il, elle and Sweetie, for example, dispassionately explore female orality, the drive that leads a character to eat a whole bag of sugar with her fingers or ingest her sister’s collection of tiny porcelain horses. (In literature, see Rita Mae Brown’s self-explanatory Rubyfruit Jungle and Jewelle Gomez’ The Gilda Stories, about an admirable band of lesbian vampires.)

This is a valid and important theme, but Blue remains an ethical tangle. Mr. Kechiche’s claim that the film is about the class divisions he himself has encountered is undercut by his reputed treatment of Ms. Exarchopoulos, the blameless young actress who plays his uncultured heroine, Adele. She had it just as rough as the accomplished Ms. Seydoux, whom Mr. Kechiche has excoriated for the family connections to which he attributes her success.

And Mr. Kechiche sells his heroine short. As a student, Adele is a passionate reader who lectures her boyfriend, a math whiz, on the fascinations of La Princesse de Cleves. After she moves in with Emma, her interests narrow to cooking and sex. Yes, she becomes a dedicated school teacher, but she loses her intellectual curiosity and independence, and Emma cannot really be blamed for growing bored.

In spite of himself, Mr. Kechiche makes the charismatic and ambitious Emma a complex character and not a stock figure of privileged snobbery (or perhaps it is Ms. Seydoux who accomplishes this feat). When Emma tires of Adele, she forces the girl into someone else’s arms for solace, and then uses the infidelity as an excuse for breaking up. It is a cowardly way to end an affair, but a very human one. Perhaps it is even a kindness that only years later does Emma admit to Adele that she doesn’t love her anymore.

Whatever else his mistakes, Mr. Kechiche should not be criticized for being a man who made a film about lesbians—that time is past. It is a beautiful film, whose palette—from Emma’s hair to Adele’s dresses to the very woodwork—never palls. Mr. Kechiche may be through with Ms. Seydoux, but blue is still the coolest color.

Everyone Else (“Alle Anderen”), Directed by Maren Ade (2009)

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Monkey-woman Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr), with her slim white body, short red hair, and mobile face, somewhat overwhelms her boyfriend Chris (Lars Eidinger), an emerging architect waiting to hear if he has won a prestigious prize. On vacation on the Mediterranean, Gitti wants to disco dance, to play jokes, to cuddle on the beach, while Chris sometimes tires of games and buries himself in his book. Newish lovers who have not yet moved in together, they might yet find their balance.

Whom should they encounter at the seaside but Chris’ established colleague, Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner), and his pretty wife, Sana (Nicole Marischka). At first, Chris tries to avoid his rival, but Hans insists that the two couples dine together.

Despite a lovely al fresco setting at Hans and Sana’s vacation place, the evening falters. When Hans patronizes Chris with advice, Gitti calls him on it. The others are embarrassed by her boldness. Hasn’t she understood that this is not a conversation among friends and equals (Gitti is a successful music agent) but an initiation? The protocol demands that Chris take Hans seriously and that Gitti be grateful for the attention bestowed on her man. But this is not Gitti’s kind of game.

Back at their own cottage, Chris and Gitti are no longer the same people. As Chris sulks, Gitti’s confidence erodes. Although disillusioned by his conformism, she is too in love to drop him. Instead, stiffening under the strain, she begins to train herself to be a desirable helpmeet.

Chris and Gitti entertain Hans and Sana to dinner. Things seem to be going well, until after the meal Hans swoops up Sana and throws her into the pool, dress and make-up and all. She emerges smilingly, a good sport. Of course Chris must then seize Gitti, and with the help of Hans, for she is struggling and protesting, dunk her in the drink. She emerges angry and humiliated, and stomps into the house.

People as physically enthralled with each other as Gitti and Chris do not break up easily, and the psychological tension only torques tighter as they try to sort out their feelings. She goes so far as to pack her bags, but literally faints before she reaches the door. When she awakens, he is bending over her.

In this her second feature film, director Maren Ade leaves open-ended the relationship of Gizzi and Chris. Perhaps he will gain the courage to love a monkey woman, perhaps she will learn to tone it down, perhaps they will call it quits–or perhaps they will go on as they are for some time to come.

A Woman under the Influence, Directed by John Cassavetes (1974)

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Cassavetes 2A woman under the influence of what: Alcohol? “Nerves”? Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands) loves her children, her husband, Nick (Peter Falk), music, people—she loves too much. She can’t turn it off or even tone it down.

When Nick brings his construction crew to the house for a meal after a long shift working for the city, Mabel dishes up the spaghetti, pours the wine, and overwhelms the shy, silent men with demonstrative hospitality, flirting in a maternal way to make them feel at home, jumping out of her seat to pinch their cheeks, until Nick barks at her to sit her ass down. After the men shuffle out in polite embarrassment, Nick assures Mabel that she hasn’t done anything wrong—it’s just that the men (especially the black men, though Nick only hints at it) would misconstrue her innocent antics. He underestimates his men, but in their name and in the name of normalcy, represented by his controlling mother (Katherine Cassavetes), Nick sends Mabel to the loony bin.

The crisis comes when Mabel gives a little party for her three kids and three schoolmates, brought to the house by their uptight dad. Mabel turns on the music to Swan Lake and joins the children waltzing and fluttering around the patio, ending in a group dying swan fall. The dad begins to think Mabel is nuts. This isn’t how adults behave.

Mabel discharges her troops to play dress-up. They are having a ball, but when her little girl Maria streaks through the living room naked, hell breaks loose. The dad storms around collecting his kids and their belongings, as Nick and his mother, damn it, come through the door. Mother-in-law bundles away the naked girl-child, Nick hits the other dad and then Mabel, and before long Nick, his mother, and the family doctor have administered the hypodermic and Mabel has gone away.

Nick’s coworker, Eddie (Charles Horvath), empathizes with Mabel, warning Nick that she is a sensitive person to be treated with consideration. Rather than understanding this as it is meant, Nick retorts, “She isn’t crazy.” The day after Mabel goes to the hospital, Nick picks a fight with Eddie (that “Mexican American” bastard), and Eddie falls to the bottom of a quarry. His body breaks in time with Mabel’s spirit. Well, his spirit is broken, too.

Mabel comes home a polished ghost, stammering responses to an assembly of her parents and in-laws. When she dares mention her shock treatments, Nick cuts her off with “the past’s the past.” At last she stands up and begs them all to leave so she can go to bed with her husband. Bleats of “not in front of the children” go round the table.

Mabel still believes that alone, away from the social situations in which she reads as a wacko, she and Nick are a team. Whether Nick believes it, Cassavetes leaves famously and heartbreakingly unanswered.

The Bling Ring (2013), by Sofia Coppola

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If Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) said little about old regime France, it did prepare the director to make Somewhere (2010) and The Bling Ring (2013), two much better films about celebrity and privilege shot on her home turf of Hollywood. A moralist (although a chill one), she allows the heroes of the latter two films to glimpse the emptiness behind the glitter.

The moral norm of The Bling Ring is Mark (Israel Broussard), a pretty, slightly chubby high-schooler who is adopted as a sort of mascot by Rebecca (Katie Chang), the leader of a hedonistic pack of girls. Rebecca earns Mark’s devotion by swooping him into her group and its lifestyle of shopping, clubbing, snorting, and stealing. Suddenly Mark is having fun, dancing, playing hooky at the beach, helping the girls get dressed, and amassing a trunk full of fabulous clothes. And breaking into the homes of celebrities, notably Paris Hilton, where the gang loads up on designer bags, jewelry, rolls of cash, drugs, and even a gun, all of which they nonchalantly show off to their friends.

The girls—Rebecca, Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga), and Chloe (Claire Julien)—have been taught from an early age to bully or bargain away any little obstacle in their path. Rebecca’s parents are divorced; her mother (Janet Song) disapproves of Rebecca, but her absent dad is poised to airlift her out of Dodge when things get hot. Nicki’s mom (Leslie Mann) home schools Nicki and her cousin Sam (for about ten minutes a day) in the teachings of their “church”: self-esteem, inner peace, business acumen. Mark’s parents (Stacy Edwards and Marc Coppola), affectionate and grounded, have raised him to care about other people. In spite of his current temptations, his upbringing shows when he tries to curb the girls’ excesses, such as dog-napping and waving that loaded gun around. For his pains, Sam holds the gun to his head.

Based on true events as reported in Vanity Fair by Nancy Jo Sales, The Bling Ring serves as a dark mirror to Amy Heckerling’s sunny Clueless (1995), about a Beverly Hills “ditz with a credit card” who learns her opportunistic ways at her father’s knee. But Heckerling’s Cher beguiles with charm, whereas Coppola’s crew grows more reckless and mean with each boundary they cross, exposing the aggression beneath LA’s laid-back manners and New Age spirituality.

As they reel though modern glass mansions nestled in the Hollywood Hills and throw open one Aladdin’s cave after another of celebrity closets, the kids’ nocturnal raids provide a vicarious thrill. But for these entitled children, each heist is not just a prank with swag, but also an affirmation of an ethos. The goods are for the taking. The world is a walk-in full of Miu Miu, and the key is under the mat. When they are caught on security cameras and the police descend, Mark hugs his parents and goes quietly. Rebecca tries to pin the blame on Mark. Nicki and her lawyer line up interviews with the national media, in which she describes her ordeal as a growth experience and talks about her future plans: to be the head of a large nonprofit dedicated to helping others.Image

Something in the Air (Après mai), Directed by Olivier Assayas (2012)

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ImageThe original title of Olivier Assayas’ new film, Après mai, signals that its young protagonists have arrived late to the leftist movement that crested in May 1968 with a general strike and the occupation of the Sorbonne. It is now 1970, and the group including Gilles (Clément Métayer), in their last year of high school, argue the schismatic politics of Marx and Trotsky, revolution and art. During a confrontation at the school in which a guard is wounded, student leader Jean-Pierre (Hugo Conzelmann) is arrested. He does not give the names of the others, and they graduate into the world.

Assayas portrays youth with great lyricism; the scene in 1994′s Cold Water of the all-night bonfire at a decayed estate evokes the revelers’ willingness to pursue mystery and beauty wherever they lead. In Après mai, the path branches. Gilles, a skinny mop head with puppy-dog eyes, loves the beautiful artist Laure (Carole Combes), who leaves him for the wealthy producer, Jean-Serge (Sylvain Jacques). Traveling with friends to join an activist group in Italy, he falls in with the earnest Christine (Lola Créton), who says of his love for Laure: You want to be her. In Italy, fellow-painter Alain (Felix Armand) hooks up with Leslie (India Menuez), an American flower child en route to Asia. Radical politics, sex, art, mysticism—all beckon.

But as the friends gradually peel away—Christine to make documentary films, Leslie to attend college in the U. S., Alain to paint—Gilles’ inclinations emerge. Turned off by the rhetorical films made by Christine’s collective, he lets her drift away from him, landing back, briefly, in the arms of Laure, now a drug addict.  At another of Assayas’ gorgeous episodic party scenes, this one at Jean-Serge’s sprawling country house, Gilles shows Laure his drawings of her. She says they are his best work, and he burns them: they are for her eyes only.

This time the bonfires spread, and the house catches fire. Laure stands at a window, perhaps jumps. In a final scene, Gilles watches a film of her walking toward him, blurry with sunshine. The film sacrifices Laure to Gilles; her failure as an artist ends his identification with her and immortalizes her as his muse.

Paradise: Faith, Directed by Ulrich Seidl

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A woman, a man, a crucifix, a cat: with such slender means does Austrian director Ulrich Seidl create the complex domestic hell of Paradise: Faith, the second installment of his Paradise trilogy, between Love, about a female sex tourist in Kenya, and Hope, about a teenage girl’s sojourn at a weight-loss camp.

In Faith, Catholic Annamaria (Maria Hofstätter) takes time off from her job as a medical technician to evangelize in poor and immigrant neighborhoods, toting a statue of the virgin in a sack. In the afternoons she returns to her house, a place as geometrical and tidy as the clinic where she works, to play hymns on the harmonium, flagellate herself in front of a hefty crucifix, or scoot around the house on her knees, a cilice tied around her midriff (she sets a timer for this mortification). She appears to be quite happy, almost giddily in love with pretty, gentle Jesus, until one day her husband, Nabil (Nabil Saleh), returns after a two-year absence. Nabil’s legs are paralyzed as the result of crashing his car while drunk.

What could Jesus be thinking, to burden her with such a heavy cross as a flesh and blood man with opinions, feelings, needs, and desires? Annamaria does her duty, cooking  Nabil’s meals and making up a bed for him on the couch, but can barely abide his intrusion on the serenity she has achieved since he left. A rapprochement is out of the question—Jesus, who saved her when her life with an alcoholic spouse came to a disastrous end, has taken a spouse’s place in her bed. That Nabil does not worship Jesus—he is a Muslim, religiously tolerant but with some cultural expectations about the role of a wife—is almost beside the point. As for Nabil, he suffers sharply from Annamaria’s coldness, her rules—no TV, not even for a man who cannot leave the house—and her religious mania. When he tries to make friends with a cat staying at the house temporarily, Annamaria locks the cat—an emblem of both the rejected Nabil and her own animal nature—in the basement.

She has one moment of remorse, sobbing over the prostrate man, who has fallen asleep in exhaustion, like Mary Magdalene over the dead Christ. But when Nabil is at last goaded by frustration and the conviction of his rights as a husband into dragging Annamaria to the floor, prepared to rape her if she does not acquiesce, she is equal to the ensuing struggle. In their prolonged wrestling match, as they pant, flail, and bop each other with slippers, swaddled in the cilice of their marriage, they resemble Paolo and Francesca, circling hell in an embrace.

 

Beyond the Hills, Directed by Cristian Mungiu

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Beyond the Hills intensifies director Cristian Mungiu’s exploration of friendship between women, already deeply examined in 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. In that film, set in authoritarian Romania, an intelligent, resourceful young woman obtains an illegal abortion for a pretty but helpless friend. In additional to enduring obstacles and risks, even to arrange for the hotel room where the procedure will take place, she sleeps with the sleazy abortionist as part of the deal. The experience scars her more than it does her friend, whom she discovers enjoying a hearty breakfast the morning after the abortion, ready to put it behind her. A new, unequal stage of the relationship begins with the protagonist’s realization that her friend cannot gauge her sacrifice.

In Beyond the Hills, Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), a young nun in a Greek Orthodox religious community in rural Romania, comes to town to meet the train of her friend Alina (Cristina Flutur), now living in Germany. In this first meeting since leaving the orphanage where they grew up, Alina clings to Voichita, sobbing. She has discovered that she cannot live without her. But Voichita has discovered God.

Beyond the Hills 1Alina, in her expedient ponytail and running suit, has chosen the West and personal freedom, while Voichita, her hair covered by a black veil, has chosen service, community, and obedience to a black-bearded patriarch (Valeriu Andriuta). When she explains to Alina that she still loves her, but that to love her more than God would be improper, Alina accuses her of parroting dogma. Yet Alina’s disrespect for Voichita’s choice—which decrees that they can no longer share a bed—does not stifle her passion for her friend. It only stokes her rebellion against the patriarch and his faith. In one of many discordant scenes, she taunts him with the proposition that a miraculous icon reputed to dwell within the inner sanctum of the church does not really exist. When he produces the image, she shatters it. She is literally an iconoclast.

Beyond the Hills 6Alina’s rage pitches her into a fit, and the nuns take her to the hospital. When she is discharged, she has nowhere to go, and the patriarch yields to Voichita’s plea to allow her to return. But the community worries about Alina’s health, physical and spiritual, and about the havoc she wreaks on their lives. Reluctantly, knowing the risk and doubting his own powers, the patriarch agrees to perform an exorcism. The nuns create a crude cross and chain Alina to it, padding the chains with rags. She resists with superhuman strength, but the nuns prevail. Hour after hour, the patriarch reads over her the scriptures banishing the devil.

In the morning, the nuns tell Voichita that her friend is at last calm, lucid, and gentle. Voichita runs to the church to find that it is true. Alina lifts her head, smiles strangely at Voichita, and collapses. Medics arrive and shoot her full of adrenaline, as if their salvation depended on her survival, but she is dead, and the religious folk are arrested. Voichita goes with them into town, although she took no part in the exorcism. She is wearing Alina’s sweater, her head is uncovered, and her eyes wear a new, unclouded expression.

Beyond the Hills is based on a nonfiction novel by Tatiana Niculescu Bran.

Like Someone in Love, Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

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As in a number of Kiarostami’s films—Taste of Cherry, Ten, Certified Copy—crucial scenes in his new film, Like Someone in Love, take place in a moving car. This is appropriate to Kiarostami’s unique method of plot development. A master of the slow release of information about the confounding complexities of human lives, the director holds a film in an evolving present, traveling in a real or metaphorical car down an undulating road to an unknown destination. Beginning in medias res, without recourse to flashbacks or voice overs to provide exposition, the films gradually reveals that the driver of the car is en route to his own grave site (Taste of Cherry) or to a delightful Italian pension where she will try to kindle a fire in a man who may be her husband (Certified Copy). The end of every film arrives with a feeling of profound and unexpected emotion. We are suddenly there.

Early in Like Someone in Love, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a sociology student and call girl, is maneuvered into a cab by her club owner pimp, Hiroshi (Denden), for a 45-minute ride to the suburban apartment of a retired sociology professor, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno). She doesn’t want to go. She has planned to have dinner with her grandmother and study for an exam. If she takes the job with the professor, she will miss her grandmother, who has traveled from Akiko’s village to the city to check on her, and she will fail her exam, and she will lose her alibi for not spending the evening with her fanatically jealous fiancé, Noriaki (Ryo Kase). After a minor tantrum, however, Akiko enters the cab, directs the cabbie to circle the train station where her grandmother waits, sheds a few tears, and settles in for a nap so she will arrive refreshed at her assignment.

At the apartment, like a true geisha, Akiko entertains the professor, Takashi, with polite attentions and flirtatious chatter, including a dirty joke she has heard at the club and doesn’t understand. After a discreet interval, however, she strips and climbs into bed, insisting that the elderly widower join her, sweetening the “let’s get this over with” message with the pretense that she is tired. And she probably is tired. Poor Takashi, who has prepared a romantic dinner, blows out the candles and follows her into the bedroom. Possibly he just lets her sleep.

In the morning, Takashi, most solicitous of johns, drives Akiko to the university, where the jealous Noriaki confronts her on the steps, demanding to know where she has spent the night. When she runs off to take her exam, he climbs into Takashi’s car, mistaking him as the girl’s grandfather, for a heart-to-heart talk about those mysterious creatures, women. Seeing that the relationship is headed for unhappiness if not disaster, the old man councils the young one not to marry Akiko, who soon enough returns and straps herself petulantly into the back seat.

Then they are off to Noriaki’s garage, to repair an engine belt in the professor’s car. The situation in the car among these three sympathetic but compromised people is, of course, a minefield. How the frustratingly passive Akiko has gotten herself into this mess raises the question of whether she represents a particularly immature individual designed by fate to ruin a lonely and/or horny old man or a vulnerable country girl surviving in the city while negotiating the virgin/whore sexual mores of traditional/modern Japan. Takashi, genuinely concerned for Akiko’s welfare, is in the end not her grandfather but her customer, with a limited right to call the shots. How to reconcile his exploitation of Akiko with his gentleness? And Noriaki might be less of a tyrant, were he not resisting the knowledge that his fiancée is a prostitute who has advertised her wares all over town. After all, he is correct. Everyone is lying to him.

Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player

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Shoot the Piano PlayerTruffaut and Godard worshiped American noir. But unlike hard-boiled heroes stateside, who do what needs to be done no matter how lousy the breaks, French heroes of the New Wave shrug at the notion of meaningful action.

Charlie Kohler (Charles Aznavour), the protagonist of Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960), could be the model for Henri, the existential cat video star. Formerly a concert pianist, Charlie now plays dance music in a bistro, punishing himself for his wife’s suicide. One day she had confessed to sleeping with his agent to further his career. Seeing that she is in despair, he tells himself to comfort her. Lacking the will, he storms from the hotel room, and she throws herself out the window.

Now, raising his kid brother, with the help of the prostitute next door, makes a life of sorts. But fate won’t leave him alone. With one hand, it delivers a wonderful girl, Lena (Marie Dubois). With the other, it serves up more brothers, amiable chuckleheaded thieves running from a double cross. Soon a pair of goons are after Charlies’s hide.

Charlie does act, once, to stab a jealous rival for Lena who is trying to choke him to death. Now the goons and the cops are after him. Lena, who has all the guts and enterprise he lacks, packs Charlie into the car and drives him to his brothers’ hideout in the country. When she returns to the hideout to tell Charlie he has been cleared of the murder charge, he sends her away in a fit of Gallic pessimism.

But it is too late, and as the goons storm the hideout she is caught in the crossfire. An unforgettable shot of her body rolling down a snowy hill recalls the fall of Charlie’s wife from the hotel window. Two strikes, you’re out. The next we see Charlie, he is back at his honkytonk piano, nursing his resignation in the face of his own weakness and the absurdity of fate.

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