Film Review: Une Nuit, Directed by Alex Lutz

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Film Review: Une Nuit, Directed by Alex Lutz
A night to remember Years ago Martin Scorsese made a film called After Hours, about a man who’s lost in late-night Manhattan and embarks on a series of misadventures. Alex Lutz’s Une Nuit has the same basic structure, except that the action takes place in Paris. A second major difference is that the film focuses on a man and a woman who are thrown together, and then stay together, during their bizarre night on the town due to some mysterious elective affinities. The night starts with a dispute on a metro train, something many Parisians have experienced. Something trivial that one or both parties should let go of, but sometimes can’t, like two disputatious dogs straining at their respective leashes. Nathalie (Karine Viard) is the hot-headed middle-aged woman, while Aymeric (played by director Lutz) is arrogantly dismissive. After getting off the train they somehow veer to a physical encounter that’s more pleasant but less plausible. They should be two ships that screw in the night, but those affinities ramp up, and so we have two vectors of suspense: Will they stay together? And what’s the point, what will they learn about one another? Une Nuit ©MC Orlando Along the way we enjoy the performances of the principals. Karine Viard is one of the great unsung stars of French cinema, someone often considered merely a solid, dependable actress, which would be enough for most film professionals. However, Ms. Viard can express an impressive range of emotion while seeming like an earthy Everywoman. She’s unflashy, but utterly authentic, middle-aged but still attractive with her smile and honey-blond hair, and occasionally rasping voice, though she performs with minimal make-up. Even the crows-feet and smile-lines are alluring. Her character has an air of not so quiet desperation, something not working in her marriage, life in general—or maybe just a midlife crisis. Une Nuit ©MC Orlando Aymeric is another story. At first glance he might seem a good complement for Nathalie. He’s handsome in a Kris Kristofferson kind of way. Even his longish, honey-blond hair matches hers. He’s calmer than she is, tolerating her outbursts with a smile, and sometime breaks out with a loud laugh. Yet there’s something self-contained about him. He’s one of those people who’s built his private world out of answers instead of questions. He works in publishing though he’s vague about his precise role: proof-reader? author? He’s so smooth he’s slippery. Since Lutz is also the director, we might suspect that he’s over-indulging his alter ego. He also wrote the script (but then Viard collaborated with him on it). Otherwise, his direction is assured, and very flexible. A short detour in a sex club is filmed with a neon-like vibe, while an episode with a runaway horse is dreamlike. A party they crash is shot like a jagged youth-cult film. These variations keep us both entertained and off balance.
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Lead photo credit : Une Nuit poster ©Studiocanal

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.