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CANNES 2022 Cannes Première

Review: Diary of a Fleeting Affair

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- CANNES 2022: Emmanuel Mouret applies his analytical and affectionate style to an affair of masked feelings between Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent Macaigne

Review: Diary of a Fleeting Affair
Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent Macaigne in Diary of a Fleeting Affair

When a cinema schedules Alfred Hitchcock’s Under Capricorn and Robert Bresson’s Les Dames du bois de Boulogne in its two auditoriums but actually screens Scenes From A Marriage by Ingmar Bergman, it’s clearly neither accident nor coincidence. A simple joke or a symbolic detail to be taken seriously: it’s between these two extremes - a whimsical act and concentration on the essentials - that Emmanuel Mouret’s delectable Diary of a Fleeting Affair [+see also:
interview: Emmanuel Mouret
film profile
]
oscillates, having now been unveiled in the 75th Cannes Film Festival’s Cannes Première section.

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"We need to stop with the questions and be good to ourselves without thinking about the future." Over the course of six months, Charlotte (Sandrine Kiberlain) and Simon (Vincent Macaigne) go through the various phases of an affair - extra-marital for the latter (who had never before cheated on his wife in the whole of their twenty-year relationship and who veers between worry, a vague and intellectualised sense of bad conscience and delighted stupefaction at the simplicity of their regular sessions of pressure-free intimacy) and far freer for the former who has been separated for two years and appears (on the outside, at least) far more relaxed ("passion’s old-fashioned, it’s a lie, propaganda") than her lover.

In twenty neat episodes and just as many meetups for our two Parisian characters between 28 February and mid-September (squared off by an epilogue two years later), the film employs great humour as it dissect the games, stakes and mechanics of love, a highly favoured area for Emmanuel Mouret, which he broaches this time round by stripping back almost everything besides the film’s core: the relationship between the two lovers, and its accompanying revelations, rules ("we did say that we shouldn’t expect anything", "each time is like our last time"), paradoxes ("you love your wife, so you’re not betraying her"), sexual and/or spiritual complicity, growing intimacy, shared escapades (museums, parks, hotels, countryside, badminton, etc.), mini real/mock jealousy tests, juggling of distance and individual space with sudden advances, hasty retreats and eventual rebounds, views on sources of desire, attraction and guilt, ventures into the unknown and big surprises to boot…

This succession of Annie Hall-style, one-on-one encounters (Giorgia Scalliet’s is the only consistent supporting role) are decoded by the director (who wrote the film’s excellent screenplay alongside Pierre Giraud, sustained by copious but no less brilliant dialogue) in nigh-on technical fashion, as if he were dissecting a sequence of dance steps (performed by two perfect artists) while taking care to keep things light so as to avoid an overload of emotions, which are nonetheless heavily present and which sometimes float to the surface. Because ultimately, beneath the elegance, intelligence and refusal to give in to one’s own whims or those of others, Diary of a Fleeting Affair isn’t "a story about sex or gender, it’s about feelings".

Diary of a Fleeting Affair is produced by Moby Dick Films and sold worldwide by Kinology.

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(Translated from French)

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