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You have to hand to Eric Schaeffer. He’s as indefatigable in his filmmaking career as he is in his apparently neverending quest for love. Both aspects are revealed in his latest effort, After Fall, Winter, which marks his eighth film since his 1993 debut My Life’s in Turnaround. It’s a sequel of sorts to his 1997 film Fall, and the second in a planned quartet of films, to be made fifteen years apart, depicting the romantic misadventures of a single character.
That character — played by the writer/director himself — is Michael, a fortysomething novelist whose life has fallen apart. His latest book has been rejected by every publisher; he’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt; and, horror of horrors, he’s been forced to sell his NYC apartment for under market value.
So what else to do but head for Paris, the city that defines romance and the possibilities of love? Sure enough, almost immediately after he arrives he meets the gorgeous, much younger Sophie (Lizzie Brochere), who is initially resistant to the advances of this fast-talking American because of, among other things, his rudeness in not saying “Hello” before beginning a conversation.
But since Michael is nothing if not persistent, the two quickly wind up in a romantic relationship, one that is complicated by their respective, thematically intertwined secrets. He’s a masochist who frequently employs dominatrices to abuse him when he’s feeling bad about himself. And, in addition to her day job as a hospice nurse, she’s a highly paid dominatrix herself.
The filmmaker’s usual penchant for solipsistic navel-gazing is once again on full display, although it’s somewhat mitigated here by the fact that his character despises himself far more than even the most hostile audience members will. Fortunately, Brochere — whose character’s disparate professions literally embody the Madonna/whore complex — has a sexy, charismatic screen presence that compensates for her co-star’s tedious moping.
An unfortunate profusion of subplots — including Sophie’s relationship with a terminally ill 13-year old gypsy girl and Michael’s run-ins with an elderly gypsy con artist who puts a curse on him — stretch the running time to an endurance-testing 130 minutes. And the film completely derails with a melodramatic, Romeo and Juliet-inspired climax that is beyond ludicrous.
The good news is that it will be a good 15 years before we’re forced to encounter the character again in Spring. Maybe by then he’ll be less of a downer.
Opens Jan. 27 (FilmBuff)
Production: D3 Pictures
Cast: Eric Schaeffer, Lizzie Brochere, Marie Luneau, Christian Mulot
Director/screenwriter/producer: Eric Schaeffer
Director of photography: Zoran Veljkovic
Editor: Frank Reynolds
Music: Matthew Puckett
No rating, 130 min
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