© Prokino (FOX)

Malen oder Lieben (Peindre ou faire l'amour)
France 2005

Opening 15 Jun 2006

Directed by: Arnaud Larrieu
Writing credits: Arnaud Larrieu, Jean-Marie Larrieu
Principal actors: Sabine Azéma, Daniel Auteuil, Amira Casar, Sergi López

Some might find this pastoral tale about a successful, middle-aged ménage a quatre just the thing to crank up a stale marriage facing golf and gardening, but not me. Madelein (Sabine Azema) is married to William (Daniel Auteuil) and she likes to paint on a nearby field after work. Madelein meets Adam (Sergi Lopez), the local mayor, and he recommends that she and her husband buy the place. William discovers he loves gardening and the joys of remodelling. Soon after, our recently retired couple moves in and starts spending a lot of time with Adam and his love wife Eva (Amira Casar). One night they swap wives at Adam’s instigation.

While directors Arnaud and Jean Marie Larrieu may have thought free love is the antidote to retirement boredom, even for empty nesters it just doesn’t work on the screen. First of all, for an American audience, 54 seems very young to retire to the country; not many of us buy run-down farms on a whim just because we had sex there; and I do not know any man who would not bat an eyelid if a male neighbor, albeit a blind one, offered to tuck his wife in.

Second, the basic parameters are a cop-out: one couple consists of empty nesters and the other have no children and the man is blind. Both couples are therefore free to indulge without taking a reasoned decision as to the potential consequences of such liaisons. And the non-blind husband need not feel the full impact of his wife shagging someone else because after all, he did not see her. Therefore, the worst than can happen is that either couple gets divorced due to irreconcilable differences. It is well known that in every ménage there is a passive partner who goes along out of love but not due to their own desire or openness. Third, having a blind man leading the empty nesters across a darkened forest and eventually into an orgy is trite. Thankfully the Larrieus left the actual sex scenes to our own imaginations. Next time they should either make a film about consenting adults indulging their whims who actually have to make a moral choice and live with the consequences or think again. (Rita Pearson Schwandt)

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