5x2 (France, 2004)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

5x2 is a departure for François Ozon, at least from his recent films. This is a simpler, more basic story than Swimming Pool or Under the Sand, and does not star either Charlotte Rampling or Ludivine Sagnier. Throughout his career, Ozon has delighted in switching genres and tones from film-to-film. He has done everything from dark, psychological thrillers to jaunty musicals. 5x2 takes him in yet another direction: the romantic drama. And it's another winner, at least for those who appreciate this sort of adult material and the unhurried pace applied by the director.

Ozon's take on Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, 5x2 deconstructs the union of two individuals whose plans for a lifetime of shared happiness end up in divorce court. Despite the French subtitles, this will resonate for many American couples, even those who aren't among the 50% of marriage casualties. 5x2 doesn't tackle any "big" themes - it's simply an autopsy of a marriage. Ozon's intent is to show how something that begins with such optimism can degrade to the point where the only option is to dissolve the bonds and renounce the vows.

The movie provides five scenes (all of about equal length) from the marriage of Marion (Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stéphane Friess). The sequences are presented in reverse chronological order, starting with an amicable divorce followed by some rough "good-bye" sex. Next is a dinner party a few years earlier, when cracks in the relationship are beginning to show. Half-way through the marriage, Marion gives birth to a son, and Gilles is too freaked out to be present or visit his wife in the hospital. Then there's the wedding, when an exhausted Gilles sleeps while a restless Marion wanders (and one wonders whether there's going to be an extramarital encounter before the marriage bed has been christened). Finally, we are shown the meeting where the attraction between them becomes obvious (even to Gilles' long-term girlfriend at the time).

The simplicity of the film gives it a certain charm. Marion and Gilles are not good or bad. Like most real people, they're flawed but not dysfunctional. The performances are unaffected; we lose sight of the actors and just see the characters. And the reverse structure allows Ozon to conclude this ultimately downbeat story on a positive and romantic note. 5x2 is a little talky and the pace is slow, but, for this kind of motion picture, it's one of the best around.

5x2 (France, 2004)

Director: François Ozon
Cast: Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stéphane Freiss
Screenplay: François Ozon, Emmanuèle Bernheim
Cinematography: Yorick Le Saux
Music: Philippe Rombi
U.S. Distributor: ThinkFilm
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2005-06-10
MPAA Rating: "R" (Sexual Situations, Nudity, Profanity)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: English subtitled French
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1