Where’s the Heat?

December 1, 2021By Heidi EllisonFilm
Lisa (Stacy Martin) at the wheel, with her lover Simon (Pierre Niney), the third wheel in a love triangle, in the backseat in Nicole Garcia’s Amants (Lovers).
Lisa (Stacy Martin) at the wheel, with her lover Simon (Pierre Niney), the third wheel in a love triangle, in the backseat in Nicole Garcia’s Amants (Lovers).

Act 1 of Nicole Garcia’s new film, Amants: It opens, fittingly for a movie called Lovers, with a couple in bed, her naked body pasted on top of his. She is Lisa (Stacy Martin), he is Simon (Pierre Niney). A small-time drug-dealer, Simon gets in trouble and has to flee Paris to avoid arrest. Lisa insists on going with him, but he sneaks off without her. Devastated, she takes a job as a coat-check attendant in a nightclub. Before you know it, she is married to a rich businessman (or arms dealer?) who stalks her there. Her new husband, Léo (Benoît Magimel), whisks her off to a life of luxury in Switzerland.

Act 2: Three years later, the couple goes to Mauritius to try to adopt a baby. Guess who happens to be working in the luxury resort they stay in? Simon, of course. And guess what happens? They pick up their love affair again.

Act 3: Simon turns up in Geneva, where a seedy motel becomes the couple’s love nest. He gradually insinuates himself into the couple’s home as an occasional employee. Eventually, Léo figures out what’s going on, and there are consequences.

A couple of reviewers described Amants as “elegant,” and the word is a perfect fit for this coolly distanced movie, which is perhaps too elegant for a thriller about a love triangle complete with drugs, sex and some violence. It’s an interesting way to approach this kind of story, but I must say I missed the fever, passion and suspense of a film noir with a similar theme like The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Still, I appreciated the great economy of means Garcia uses in her filmmaking. Unlike many directors today, she doesn’t condescend to viewers by overexplaining everything, instead trusting in our ability to make connections. A wonderful example is the scene in which Lisa is working in the nightclub, and one of her customers – a rather portly man seen only in the shadows – says to her, “Do you know why I come here every night?” They are interrupted before he can continue, and he leaves. We get it, though, and that’s all that’s needed. In the next scene, she and Léo are married and living in Geneva.

Magimel is magnificent as the cuckolded husband, and Niney fine as the lover, but I found Martin’s performance underwhelming and didn’t really feel the heat of the lovers’ passion for each other. The film struck me as good and well-made but did not inspire my passion either.


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