Quantum Love (Une Rencontre): Film Review

Roger Do Minh
Extremely glossy romance pits a glamorous divorcee against a happily married man.

French director Lisa Azuelos ("LOL") reteams with Sophie Marceau for another romantic comedy, this time co-starring Francois Cluzet.

PARIS -- A sort-of single woman meets a very married man in Quantum Love (Une Rencontre), the latest glossy confection of French director Lisa Azuelos, whose previous film, LOL, was a remake of her own French hit, with Demi Moore playing the role originated by French star and former Bond girl Sophie Marceau.

For her latest high-concept romantic comedy, Azuelos has returned to France and again cast Marceau, who here plays an about-to-be-divorced woman who meets a man who is perfect in just about every way, except that, just like in the Alanis Morissette song, he turns out to be married. Popular French actor Francois Cluzet, of Intouchables fame, stars opposite Marceau in this woozy and splashily packaged romance that should appeal to the same adult audiences that made previous Marceau vehicles, including Happiness Never Comes Alone, The Other Side of the Bed and, yes, LOL, such huge hits at home, with all of them easily coasting to over 1.5 million admissions.

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Elsa (Marceau) is a popular novelist with two children who’s introduced to Pierre (Cluzet) at a reception at a Salon du livre in provincial Rennes by their mutual friend Julien (Arthur Benzaquen), who suggests they’ll get along like a house on fire since both like to smoke grass. Clearly, only in a French romantic comedy would bonding over mutual drug use be considered appropriate for a meet cute, even if -- or perhaps especially -- if both protagonists and potential lovebirds are over 40.

Elsa occasionally sleeps with Hugo (Niels Schneider, the pretty boy from Xavier Dolan’s Les Amours imaginaires), a much younger but very handsome man who’s clearly on speed dial for his ephebic acrobatics in the bedroom rather than any kind of conversational ability. Pierre, meanwhile, has been happily married for years to Anne (played by the director), and has no qualms about joking to her he slept with another woman, when on his trip to Rennes, because he knows she won’t freak out since she knows he’s not that kind of man.

Because there would be no feature otherwise, Elsa and Pierre, who’ve decided not to exchange numbers, run into each other several times in Paris over the following days, and their brutally honest conversations -- they don’t have anything to lose after all, since they don’t need to impress each other -- is a turn-on for both.

For Quantum Love, like for LOL, Azuelos has devised elaborate match cuts and ways in which scenes are otherwise visually connected, borrowing techniques from films ranging from The Rules of Attraction to Moulin Rouge. This not only gives the film an extremely snazzy look but, crucially, also visually suggests that Elsa and Pierre are inextricably linked and always on each other’s minds, despite the fact Pierre falls into the category of Elsa’s "only taboo: married men," as she explains to her generically sympathetic girlfriends.

Quantum Love also contains several fantasy or "what if" passages, almost all flashy montage sequences set to ditto music that are less about reality than about capturing a certain perfume ad-like essence of evanescent luxury ("wouldn’t it be great if, just for a moment…?"). While they may be satisfactory in the sense that they give viewers what they paid for, namely a romance involving the two marquee stars, they also feel like something of a narrative cop-out, as (spoiler alert) Azuelos relies on this narrative sleight of hand several times to essentially have it both ways, with each time only making it clear after the fact that the preceding scene didn’t actually happen.

The screenplay, also by Azuelos, is well-plotted if one can get over the numerous coincidences needed for the central duo to run into each other again and again, and advances the rather believable notion that practically everybody dreams of living a fairytale romance, as found in novels like Elsa's or films such as this one, but that reality is often different and a little more complicated. As the English title suggests, there’s also a little bit of quantum theory that the writer-director employs, especially toward the end, but there’s hardly enough room for such a complicated concept to be let loose on the love life of two people who shouldn’t, theoretically, be together.

Marceau has never had a bad hair day or bad chemistry with her co-stars, since she generates enough heat for two, but her chemistry with Cluzet tilts a little too often toward the affable rather than the combustible here. As an actress, Azuelos isn’t entirely comfortable in front of the camera, though her Anne is also clearly the proverbial third wheel, ring around her finger be damned.

Production values are extremely polished, with several major cuts, including a Robbie Williams song, on the soundtrack, giving a good suggestion of how comfortable the budget must have been.

Opens: April 23 (in France)

Production companies: Bethsabee Mucho, Pathe, TF1 Films Production, Chaocorp Developpement, Movie Pictures

Cast: Sophie Marceau, Francois Cluzet, Lisa Azuelos, Alexandre Astier, Arthur Benzaquen, Jonathan Cohen, Niels Schneider, Stephanie Murat, Olivia Cote

Writer-Director: Lisa Azuelos

Producers: Julien Madon, Lisa Azuelos

Co-producer: Romain Le Grand

Director of photography: Alain Duplantier

Production designer: Anne Seibel-Lemeux

Costume designer: Isabelle Pannetier  

Editor: Stan Collet

Sales: Pathe International

No rating, 81 minutes.