Obsessive Rhythms (Cadences obstinees): Film Review

"Obsessive Rhythms"
A music-infused drama that's completely out of synch.

Asia Argento, Franco Nero and Gerard Depardieu all take part in this second directorial effort from actress-turned-filmmaker Fanny Ardant ("Confidentially Yours").

PARIS – Offering considerable proof that some actors should never venture behind the lens, veteran French star Fanny Ardant (The Woman Next Door, 8 Femmes) delivers a second, risibly awful art-house effort with the stuffy chamber drama, Obsessive Rhythms (Cadences obstinees).

Ostensibly about a former cellist stuck in a dead-end relationship with an obsessive architect, and starring a mishmash of performers coping with language barriers and pages of pretentious dialogue, this Portugal-shot effort was produced by Raoul Ruiz regular Paulo Branco, and plays like a botched rip-off of one of the late Chilean auteur’s more forgettable works. Festival slots and a mandatory release in the film’s three co-producing countries are all one should expect here.

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In a casting choice that requires a considerable leap of faith, Asia Argento (The Last Mistress) stars as Margo, a brilliant classical musician who tosses aside her career for a fanatical designer, Furio (Nuno Lopes), consumed by the renovation of a brand new boutique hotel. If that doesn’t sound like a terrific set-up, Ardant nonetheless uses it to tackle grandiose themes of obsession, jealousy, corruption and creation, and does so with all the delicacy of a 2-year-old slapping a canvas with finger paint.

Oscillating between the couple’s endless spats, which are loaded with cringe-inducing lines (“Why do we never laugh anymore?” and the subtle “I want to live!”) recited by Argento as she writhes in agony on the floor, and scenes of Margo playing cello in a dark room while Furio strives to build his masterpiece (yes, a boutique hotel) next door, the movie tries to milk drama out of some of the poorest characters and circumstances seen in this sort of Europudding concoction.

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To make matters worse, the cacophony of spoken languages never makes sense, and is obviously fulfilling co-funding requirements that have nothing to do with the story. The Italian Argento speaks French to the Portuguese Lopes, who speaks Italian to his partner/rival, Mattia (played by Ricardo Pereira, also Portuguese), as well as to their slimy boss, Carmine (Franco Nero). In the least, Gerard Depardieu gets to speak his native tongue, which would make sense if you could actually believe he were a friendly local priest offering up tidbits of wisdom for the others.

Using tons of music to smooth over all the rough edges, Ardant mixes works by Schumann, Bach and Monteverdi (the solos were performed by French cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton) with a heavy-handed score from composer Jean-Michel Bernard (Be Kind Rewind). Cinematography by Andre Szankowski (Mysteries of Lisbon) yields a few nice images but can’t overcome a video-ish quality, while editing by Julia Gregory (The Hedgehog) is often elliptical, jumping between scenes in an artsy manner that is more than likely making up for all the bad acting and writing.


Opens: Wednesday, Jan. 10 (in France)

Production companies: Alfama Films, France 3 Cinema, Leopardo Films

Cast: Asia Argento, Nuno Lopes, Ricardo Pereira, Gerard Depardieu, Franco Nero

Director, screenwriter: Fanny Ardant

Producer: Paulo Branco

Director of photography: Andre Szankowski

Production designer: Isabel Branco

Music: Jean-Michel Bernard

Editor: Julia Gregory

Sales agent: Alfama Films

No rating, 101 minutes


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