Alice et Martin Review

Jul 27, 2000 | 8:00pm EDT

After a painful childhood as the illegitimate son of a harsh father semi-nutso pretty boy Martin (Alexis Loret) makes his way to Paris where he finds quick success as an Armani model and wins the heart of strong-willed violinist Alice ("The English Patient's" Juliette Binoche). But the memory of his unhappy upbringing and dark deeds past eats at the sullen protagonist's mind. Can Alice piece together the details of his tortured history before viewers tune out completely?

As usual the sympathetic Binoche dominates the film with her intelligence and radiant humanity. The complexity and emotional precision of her work is the main reason to watch the flick. Loret makes a strong impression in his feature film debut though he's mostly only called upon to stand around looking hunky and give us the occasional brooding frown. Mathieu Almaric provides compelling support as Martin's conflicted gay half-brother.

French auteur Andre Techine whose complex sensitive work in films such as "Wild Reeds" and "Thieves" made him an art-house favorite in the States loses his grip on "Alice and Martin's" narrative early on. Skipping sequences crucial to the logical flow of the story putting too much emphasis on a "mystery" plot point with an obvious resolution he delivers a drama that is all the more frustrating to watch for the fine work that goes into individual scenes. His loose approach to story structure which proved so refreshing in the 1993 ensemble drama "My Favorite Season " strips "Alice and Martin" of momentum wasting all the gorgeous visuals he's conjured up with cinematographer Caroline Champetier.

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