Resnais's adaptation of an enjoyably trashy melodrama by Henri Bernstein is as daring and ineffable as anything he's done. Bernstein, the dean of the boulevard drama in the twenties, was noted by critics for his unusual adaptation of movie techniques to the stage; Resnais triumphs precisely by bringing the pleasures of the theater to film. But his is a lithe, almost dreamy theatricality that offsets the weight of the narrative, bringing to the fore, under a painted sky in an unreal world, the musical structure he found fascinating in the playwright's work. In 1926, Romaine (Sabine Azéma), the wife of a second-string pianist, Pierre (Pierre Arditi), falls carelessly in love with Pierre's best friend, the virtuoso violinist Marcel (André Dussollier). The casual affair turns thick with passion while Pierre withers, tended by his cousin Christiane (Fanny Ardant). Resnais mysteriously succeeds in utterly engrossing the viewer, who becomes lost in the time and space of a mélo (not mellow) drama.

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