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'Entre Nous': Women on the Verge

October 27, 1994|MARK CHALON SMITH | Mark Chalon Smith is a free-lancer who regularly writes about film for The Times Orange County Edition. and

The key moment in Diane Kurys' intelligent "Entre Nous" comes during an elementary school pageant, when Lena and Madeleine meet. Destiny coddles the scene, and we know these two are meant for each other.

Kurys' 1983 movie, screening Friday night as part of UC Irvine's "Cinema Potpourri" series, is all about female bonding filtered through a romantic gauze. The two women, married to flops of husbands and stuck in domestic routines, find psychological and erotic liberation through their relationship. Kurys wants the audience to know there's a good chance all sisters, at the heart of the matter, are soul-mates.

What gives this French film a special poignancy is that it's set during an era stifled by convention, making Madeleine (Miou Miou) and Lena's (Isabelle Huppert) connection that much more intriguing. The movie begins in the Pyrenees in the early '40s, when Lena, a Belgian Jew, avoids the concentration camps by marrying Michel (Guy Marchand), a French Legionnaire.

This compromising decision is contrasted with tender scenes of Madeleine's love affair with a young art student, who is soon killed, leaving her with her own bargains to make. She marries Costa (Jean-Pierre Bacri), a failed actor and petty businessman, and settles down to a life unfulfilled.

That is, until she meets Lena. From there, the story moves ahead as something of a feminist allegory, linking us to both (especially Lena) as they grow through each other's inspiration and devotion.

The picture's look even changes at this point to underscore Kurys' excitement over their intimacy. Bernard Lutic's cinematography, somewhat harsher and deliberate early on, now seems lusher, more flattering as it dwells on the pretty faces of Huppert and Miou Miou.

But even while Kurys applauds their partnership, she points out that making such a choice comes with consequences. Both Lena and Madeleine ignore their children and deceive their husbands to embrace a love that can't help but be as selfish as it is liberating.

There's a vaguely unflattering edge to the women, which gives "Entre Nous" a patina of realism. The authenticity, unfortunately, doesn't reach to Michel and Costa, who are painted by Kurys with such coarse strokes that they seem shallow caricatures, especially when compared to the more subtly defined Madeleine and Lena.

Ultimately, Costa and Michel are revealed as just part of the backdrop against which Lena and Madeleine's lives evolve. That's a clear weakness of "Entre Nous," but it isn't towering. The film is a fine example of this smart director's work, which includes the little-known "Peppermint Soda" (1977) and "Cocktail Molotov" (1980).

* What: Diane Kurys' "Entre Nous."

* When: Friday, Oct. 28, at 7 and 9 p.m.

* Where: The UC Irvine Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Jamboree Road, head south to Campus Drive and take a left. Turn right on Bridge Road and take it into the campus.

* Wherewithal: $2 to $4.

* Where to call: (714) 856-5588.


La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead

(NR) Independent filmmakers Susana Munoz and Lourdes Portillo examine death rituals among Latinos in the United States and Mexico during the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in this 1989 film that screens at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 29 and 30, at the Fullerton Museum Center, 301 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton. Included with museum admission of $1.50 to $2.50; children under 12 admitted free. (714) 738-6545.

The Cowboys

(PG) John Wayne stars in this 1972 film about a rancher, past his prime, who takes a group of young men on a cattle drive. The film, directed by Mark Rydell, screens Friday, Oct. 28, at the Cypress Senior Center, 9031 Grindlay St., Cypress. Public welcome. (714) 229-6776. FREE


(NR) Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic thriller, starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, screens Friday, Oct. 28, at 6:30 p.m. in the Newport Harbor Art Museum, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach. Film historian Arthur Taussig will introduce the film and present an analysis after the screening. $3 to $5. (714) 759-1122.

Strangers on a Train

(NR) Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 film about murder, destiny and two men on a train screens Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the Newport Harbor Art Museum, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach. Film historian Arthur Taussig will introduce the film and present an analysis after the screening. $3 to $5. (714) 759-1122.

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