Though indiscriminately set in a French mining town in the 1930s, Frédéric Fonteyne’s synthetic follow-up to 1999’s An Affair of Love seems to be inspired by the stark and commanding New German cinema of Fassbinder and Herzog. A strange and spiritless combo of Fear of Fear, The Merchant of Four Seasons, and Woyzeck, Gilles’ Wife casts Emmanuelle Devos as a pregnant housewife who tends in equal parts to a garden adjacent to her home and the suspicions that her husband Gilles (Clovis Cornillac) may be having an affair with her sister Victorine (Laura Smet). Everyone is mad to some degree but Fonteyne fails to ground the obsessions and bourgeoning lunacies of his characters in a palatable sense of time and place. Though the story’s many quiet stretches allow Devos to really flex her acting muscles, her character’s twistedness remains incredulous. But the blame scarcely belongs to the actress, who isn’t responsible for the script’s simplification of female subjectivity. The film should reflect upon its lower-class milieu and emotional history of its characters—instead, it mirrors its own virtuosity. Gilles’ Wife is all pretty gels and filters; Virginie Saint-Martin’s camerawork may be succulent but it’s also unimaginative, giving off the unfortunate sheen of a sweaty, horned-up Euro-trash television commercial, sans the phallic fruits and vegetables. Call it Through a Glass Fatuously.
- IFC Films
- 103 min
- Frédéric Fonteyne
- Frédéric Fonteyne
- Emmanuelle Devos, Clovis Cornillac, Laura Smet
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: