It’s the love story between disconcerting spontaneity and a perpetual fear of the unpredictable. In this eleventh feature film, Emmanuel Mouret plays these two characters with fascinating dexterity, making us follow the Chronicles of the secret affair between Charlotte, a single mother, and Simon, a married father. Film remarkable for its dialogues, irresistibly funny, Chronicle of a temporary liaison brings together Fragments of a love speechwhere the words, as Barthes puts it, “ [s’entendent] in the gymnastic or choreographic sense”. And, in fact, the long sequence shots marry the walk of the lovers, who construct the temporality of the film, which unfolds like a long meditative stroll filled with humour.
Comedy of a romantic relationship, Chronicle of a temporary liaison juggles with the codes of romanticism, passing through misunderstandings or situation comedy. The classic romantic topoi are scattered throughout the story, constantly diverted from their original function: from the hotel room to cycling escapades in nature, passing by the joyous cavalcades in the streets of Paris, only a few details are enough for the parody, and blend them into an array of mischief. Nature, the temple of romanticism par excellence, then in turn plays an important role in Chronicle of a temporary liaison : alongside Paris, she blends into the decor, which becomes a diptych opposing nature to culture, and, by extension, the lively spontaneity of the character of Charlotte, to the attraction of the predictable in Simon. We can only salute the brilliant playing of Sandrine and Kiberlain and Vincent Macaigne, in this duet with the perfect balance between delicacy and ridiculousness. Moreover, the bucolic motif is the subject of a reflection, during a walk in the forest, where Simon confides to Charlotte his lack of nature: his companion then points out the absurdity of his words, objecting to her that the city is also nature, since it is the fruit of the human imagination. Far from constituting their only disagreement, this discussion fits perfectly into the particular play on words, and their polysemy: because, when one of them expresses his thought, the other never understands its meaning. real, as if their liaison was a perpetual misunderstanding.
Playing on the element of surprise, Emmanuel Mouret excels in keeping the viewer awake, who is constantly taken aback by this unpredictable side of the conversation: thus, from the start of the film, when Charlotte invites Simon to her for the first time, the latter is surprised by the absence of curtains: modest, he contrasts frankly with the cheeky character of his companion, poetizing on the beauty of seeing someone naked at his window. It is doubtless this dissonance which brings the comic spring into play in Chronicle of a temporary liaison. Through its humorous dialogues, the film thus resembles a parody of marivaudage. One thinks, for example, of their tryst at the museum, where Charlotte gets carried away in a violent satire of passion and all that is ridiculous in her eyes, in front of a sheepish Simon. Or, when the latter begins to read aloud a passage from a book chosen at random, in a desire to appear fine and poetic – followed by the fall, where Charlotte invites him to postpone his reading until later. All his discussions around the romantic relationship are part of a sharp cultural decor — the two lovers browse the showrooms, chat in bookstores, stroll through the shelves, go to see a Bergman at the cinema — Chronicle of a temporary liaison can easily see itself as a romantic comedy (or rather, a comedy of romanticism) in the image of a Rohmer, where the characters converse without stopping on what is playing in their minds. Moreover, the filmmaker of the New Wave spoke of his cycle Tales and Proverbs like a “cinema that paints moods, thoughts as well as actions”. And this is ultimately what Emmanuel Mouret offers us in this loving logbook, full of tenderness and lightness.
Chronicle of a temporary liaison does not seek so much to tell the story of the romantic relationship between Charlotte and Simon as to transport us on a cinematic wandering in nature and in words. The camera follows the director’s desire that “the actors are always on the move”, and films long sequence shots, where the protagonists arise, disappear, move, brush against each other and contemplate each other, and where speech wanders. The Chronic insists on the ephemeral nature of the liaison between Charlotte and Simon, whose story seeks to capture this fugitiveness, through ellipses and short close episodes. The film then holds our attention thanks to each detail scattered throughout the sequences, where we are constantly overtaken by the surprise of the event or the disruption of the facts. Emmanuel Mouret excels in dialogue with his spectator: the explicit chronology of the facts and anchors us throughout in a tangible reality, to which we almost have the impression of being part, but the change is so imperceptible that we only realizes it once the fact has been accomplished. Through its constant dialogues and wanderings, the film urges us to pay attention to the turn of events, recalling, like an 18th century moralist, that no one is master of his or her destiny: all the strength of the film of Emmanuel Mouret is undoubtedly based on this participative marivaudage. In this journey of cinema and dialogue, the music (essentially Mozart sonatas) brings a contemplative and melancholy relief.
A bit like Diderot’s Salons, Chronicle of a temporary liaison its strolling pace encourages you to start by strolling before letting yourself be seized by the experience, in love in this case, and all the surprise it takes on. And under all the comic aspects of the dialogues and the main characters, Emmanuel Mouret sketches the slightly disturbing sensation of time slipping through our fingers, and of these moments which disappear forever.
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