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With: Emmanuelle Béart, Michel Serrault, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Claire Nadeau, Françoise Brion, Michèle Laroque, Michael Lonsdale, Charles Berling
Written by: Jacques Fieschi, Claude Sautet, Yves Ulmann
Directed by: Claude Sautet
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 106
Date: 06/21/1986

Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud (1995)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Memoir Lane

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Emmanuelle Béart stars as Nelly, a beautiful young woman who has grown frustrated with her lazy, jobless husband (Charles Berling). While having coffee with a friend, she is introduced to the 70-ish retired businessman and former judge Pierre Arnaud (Michel Serrault). He offers to pay her debts, with no strings attached. She reluctantly accepts, pays her back rent, and leaves her husband. She then accepts a job typing and editing Monsieur Arnaud's memoirs. Their complex relationship in his apartment is conveyed through dialogue and nuanced performances, never quite going where one would expect. Arnaud is not out to seduce Nelly, but their relationship isn't totally without sexual tension, either. When Nelly begins an affair with Arnaud's publisher Vincent (Jean-Hugues Anglade), Arnaud's strong reaction isn't quite jealousy, but perhaps a complex mixture of other things. Throughout the process, Arnaud decides to get rid of all the books on the surrounding shelves, paring down the scenery to its barest elements. Directed and co-written by Claude Sautet, this is an expertly controlled drama, subtle and complex, and focused more on emotions than who ends up with whom.

Kino Lorber released the film on Blu-ray in 2019, with an elegant transfer. Bonuses include an audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger, a trailer, and a liner notes essay by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. The company also released Sautet's other collaboration with Béart, Un Coeur en Hiver (1992), which I will review when I can.

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