Synopsis: Paul Dedalus is standing at the crossroads of his life. He must choose his direction in life, in his career, and in his love life as he sits in fear of the despairing life that his father is unable to escape from. Featuring an extraordinary cast of France’s most promising young actors and actresses, “My Sex Life” is a witty look at a group of twenty-something grad students trying to cope with life, love and everything in between.
eyelights: its performances. its realism.
eyesores: its dourness. its unpleasant characters.
“I feel trapped”
Miserablism, as the Pet Shop Boys might say. That’s the lasting impression one derives from Arnaud Desplechin’s sophomore motion picture, 1996’s ‘Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle)’: miserable people, leading miserable lives over the course of nearly three miserable hours.
Well, it’s not nearly as dreary as all that.
But it is miserable.
The picture, which introduced audiences to Mathieu Amalric, tells the story of four couples (mostly) from the perspective of the selfish and fickle Paul Dédalus, a young teacher at the Sorbonne. It shows the group cheating on their partners with each other and betraying their friendships.
It’s a good time.
It’s the kind of picture made by a cynic for cynics, professing a view of human relationships that is deeply depressing to any idealist or romantic. No interaction is selfless and each one is analyzed with a misplaced confidence by the picture’s bland narrator and its various characters.
Frankly, I found the characters pathetic – especially Paul and his lovers, who constantly torture each other emotionally all the while cheating on their respective partners: they say cruel or demeaning things to each other and then turn around to profess the depth of their “love”.
They’re $#!t people, really, and why they remain together is beyond me. Who would bear that kind of crap from anyone? How low can your self-esteem go? And, though the lovers do part after a while, Paul remains with Esther, his partner of 10 years, even though he’s desperate to break up.
Watching these people is no fun. Even changing the perspective from Paul to some of his friends for short periods doesn’t really help because they’re all confused and/or demented. It would be so easy for them to sort their lives if they weren’t so emotionally immature and acted so stupidly.
Amazingly, ‘Comment je me suis disputé…’ is listed as a comedy in some quarters, though it’s really a bleak drama. If there were any indications that this was satirical, then perhaps one might see glimmers of acerbic humour in it, but there’s no such suggestion; there’s nothing funny here.
Thankfully, the performances are quite excellent, and each actor makes their character credible. Though these are people I would want to keep clear of, I believed that they were real; I’ve met enough confused people to know that they exist. Heck, Woody Allen has built his oeuvre on such people.
The difference, though, is that Allen clearly pokes fun at them.
I’ve only seen one other picture by the Award-winning filmmaker, 2008’s ‘Un conte de Noël‘, and that was also rife with bleakness. They’re both realistic films but they’re unpleasant to watch because there’s not one appealing personnage amongst the lot of them. They’re all total rubbish.
I don’t know if this is indicative of the Desplechin’s overall perspective but, if it is, I can only pity the man. I’m hardly the most optimistic person one could ever meet, and am also one of the least congenial, but even I don’t find these interactions tolerable or acceptable – let alone healthy.
So ‘Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle)’ was hard to bear. It’s excessively long, edited haphazardly, and filled with dourness. Though I recognize some of the skill involved in it and appreciated the actors’ efforts, I can’t fathom ever sitting down to watch this ever again.
Though I’ll likely watch its sequel.
(Yes, amazingly, there is a sequel)
Date of viewing: April 14, 2017