A Couple

A Couple ★★★★★

This beautiful film has been rightfully compared to Straub/Huillet in many quarters (the conceit of examining the relationship between a Great Artist and his spouse -- by focusing exclusively on the point of view of the wife who's been forgotten by history -- is similar to CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH). But Wiseman also offers some of the most elemental pleasures of the movies in the way he returns cinema to its roots. In a series of shots, French actress Nathalie Boutefou recites a monologue based on the letters and diary of Sophia Tolstoy (wife of Count Leo), mostly while standing in a garden near the sea. The photography of the natural landscapes around her is always stunning. Because Boutefou is the only person in the film, there is a copious amount of space in the widescreen frame that allows the viewer ample room to contemplate the sights of moving water or "the wind in the trees" that so impressed the earliest viewers of the films of Birt Acres and the Lumiere brothers. This was obviously a deeply personal film for Wiseman, who made it after the death of his own beloved wife of many years. That much of the text consists of Sophia complaining about her husband's neglect of her and their children as a result of him being preoccupied with work, and the highly emotional way these lines are delivered by Boutefou, turns the whole project into an act of radical empathy -- one that I sincerely hope provided some catharsis for its creator.

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