VENICE FILM REVIEW: Patrice Chereau’s ‘Persecution’

persecutionBy Ray Bennett

VENICE – Everybody persecutes everybody else and they all feel persecuted in Patrice Chereau’s talkative roundelay “Persecution”, which stars Romain Duris and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a Parisian couple who spend more time talking about their relationship than getting on with it.

Charismatic stars and the film’s Gallic shrug of acceptance over the difficulties that being in love creates will take the film to festivals and art houses but it’s far from a classic.

Duris plays Daniel, an independent guy who lives from hand to mouth renovating apartments, and seems happy that way. He even takes time to be a volunteer visitor at a retirement home and his very insouciance draws men and women to him including long-time girlfriend Sonia (Gainsbourg), whose job means she travels a lot and she’s kind of glad about that too.

Daniel has a cluster of friends including accountant Michel (Gilles Cohen), who spends all his time grousing that he cannot be like Daniel, and Thomas (Alex Descas), whom Daniel calls “brother” but seldom sees.

Working on two different jobs at the same time, Daniel is disturbed to discover that a stranger (Jean Hughes Anglade) is stalking him. Soon, the man has broken into one of the places and is declaring his love for Daniel, who responds violently.

The willingness of everyone he knows to place Daniel at the centre of their lives becomes a persecution of its own although he berates himself for persecuting all of them. He increasingly encounters strange incidents on the Metro and Paris streets but they seem only to puzzle him.

A requisite nude love scene between Duris and Gainsbourg adds little insight and their constant bickering grows tiresome. Daniel’s tolerance of the stranger’s annoying intrusions seems a bit odd even though he opens up to him about why he volunteers at the retirement home.

Some viewers may end up feeling a bit persecuted themselves.

Venue: Venice International Film Festival, In Competition; Cast: Romain Duris, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jean Hughes Anglade, Gilles Cohen, Alex Descas; Director: Patrice Chereau; Writers: Patrice Chereau, Anne-Louise Trividic; Director of photography: Yves Cape; Production designer: Sylvain Chauvelot; Music: Eric Neveux; Costume designer: Caroline de Vivais; Editor: Francoise Gedigier; Producer: Bruno Levy; Production: Movie Movie; Sales: Vendite International; Not rated; running time, 100 mins.

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.

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