Sunday 4 October 2009

L'appartement - obsession, lies and deceit

Released in 1996, L'appartement is a stylish and sophisticated noir thriller directed by Gilles Mimouni and starring Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci and Romane Bohringer.

Not to be mistaken for Billy Wilder's bittersweet classic, L’Appartement follows the exploits of Max played by Vincent Cassel, a successful businessman living in Paris, soon to be married to his fiance Muriel and about to leave on a business trip to Tokyo.

Over a lunch meeting in a restaurant, Max has to make a phone call only to find the only phone available is in use by a woman concealed behind a frosted glass partition. Max hears the woman, and believes it is his long lost love Lisa played by Monica Bellucci. Max misses the girl as she leaves the restaurant, prompting him to skip his flight to Tokyo and attempt to track Lisa down. Through a series of flashbacks we discover more about Max and Lisa and gradually through his investigations into her disappearance, Max encounters the emotionally damaged Alice, played by Romane Bohringer, and becomes drawn into a web of obsession, lies and deceit.

With a plot reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Barbet Schroeder's Single White Female, L’Appartement's non-linear plot takes the viewer through numerous twists and turns and keeps you guessing right up to its bittersweet conclusion.

The Hitchcockian vibe of L’Appartement is excentuated by Peter Chase's gorgeous melancholic and romantic score which recalls Bernard Herrmann's work with Hitchcock and Howard Shore's A History of Violence. Sadly, an officially released score is not available but a short DVD rip of the soundtrack is a great listen.

If the plot of L'appartement seems familiar, it was was remade in the US by Paul McGuigan as Wicker Park in 2004 and starred Josh Hartnett. I've not seen it it so I can't comment.

For me, Gilles Mimouni's artfully directed L’Appartement is a thing of beauty, stunningly framed by Thierry Arbogast, with a stylish and intelligent plot and great performances by an excellent cast. A cool and sexy film to be savoured.

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