Note: A noticeably better version of this film has been released. For further details please see the HK R3 review also found at DVDTALK. (update: October 5, 2006).
Paris, Place Pigalle…
An average looking man (Bernard Campan) sees a beautiful Italian prostitute (Monica Bellucci) in a rundown locale. He walks in, orders a drink, and offers the girl 100 000 Euros...for each month she spends with him. The man has just won the lottery.
Without knowing much about her client and how precisely she is expected to earn his money the girl agrees and moves in with the man. For the next couple of months she will love the man and wave him goodbye each morning when he leaves for work. Then, when the man runs out of money, the Italian beauty will pack, leave, and begin a new life.
Part romantic story with a twist, part tragi-comic farce Bertrand Blier's latest Combien tu m'aimes? a.k.a How Much Do You Love Me? (2005) is a strange film that neither impresses nor disappoints. If anything it provides plenty of the beautiful and much-admired these days Italian diva Monica Bellucci which I am sure will be the reason why many will flock to see this film.
Put aside the stunning-looking Italian actress however and what we have here is a very unusual mix of themes that may not bode that well with the general public. Comedy, satire, a bit of drama, even some ill-executed action is what Combien tu m'aimes? offers. Add to the mix the edgy sense of humor French director Bertrand Blier is known for and what we have is, as a good colleague of mine used to say, neither this nor that. With other words, Combien tu m'aimes? is a loose and wacky European take on Adrian Lyne's over-sentimental Indecent Proposal (1993).
Unfortunately however Combien tu m'aimes? does not fall too far off our own Indecent Proposal either. The story is not as predictable (there are a few spicy "twists") yet the characters are just as shabby. Which is quite surprising to me as Bertrand Blier has managed to convince some of the grande players of French cinema that this could have been a worthy of their attention project-Gerard Depardieu (1492: The Conquest of Paradise), Jean Pierre-Darroussin (Feux Rouges), Bernard Campan (Se Souvenir des Belles Choses), etc. Yet…the script is more than lacking imagination, especially during the second half of the film, and unless you are completely fixated with Monica Bellucci, you should easily notice its faults.
Being dimwit and unable to follow the plot of Combien tu m'aimes? however is a very possible scenario. If there is anything that Bernard Blier and Co have achieved with this film it is to provide plenty of the elegant Italian beauty in a manner that would impress even the most cold-hearted of men (and women). Good camera work, decent locations, gorgeous dresses, all of them graced by the presence of Monica Bellucci- I sure do not need anything else on the menu.
And to those who claim that Combien tu m'aimes? is a poor film with no redeeming values…Let's get one thing straight, if you walked into this film expecting the next Citizen Kane then perhaps you are just a tiny bit off with your expectations. I suggest you adjust your "quality-barometer" accordingly!! For the rest of you with more reasonable expectations: enjoy!
Official site and trailer:
(to see the trailer click on Bande Annonce)
How Does the DVD Look?
It is quite obvious what has been done here: Seville Canada/WB have borrowed the French PAL master from Wild Side/Universal and produced an NTSC version with added English subs. Unlike their R1 release of Patrice Chereau's Gabrielle however Seville have preserved the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced it for widescreen TV's. This being said if not for the improper PAL-NTSC port this disc is actually of very strong quality: colors are lush and rich, contrast is excellent, and the print is damage-free. Edge-enhancement is extremely manageable and when blown through a digital-projector the image does not break down. I guess what one must wonder here is WHAT IF Seville would have properly converted the French print for this Canadian release? The answer is very simple: we would have had in our hands a near perfect quality disc!! (in case it is unclear: this is a hint Seville producers!!).
How Does the DVD Sound?
Well, we have a slight downgrade here in comparison to the French disc. While the French R2 disc boasts a solid DTS track what Seville have provided here is just the 5.1 French track. Which is not shabby at all: dialog is crystal clear and very, very easy to follow. It is pretty clear that since there were no issues to report with the R2 disc there won't be any with the R1 (yet…you never know). All in all I am perfectly happy with the audio treatment. With optional (very well done) English subtitles. French (or English speakers) hoping for French subtitles, I guess you are to look elsewhere if you should need them.
Unfortunately not even a trailer!! Nothing!
Long before Seville released this disc I obtained a copy of the R2 DVD of Combien tu m'aimes? and got exactly what I expected (and more). So, now that you know what to expect you can either dive headlong or look elsewhere. As to the Seville disc…let's just say that as there are no plans for an immediate US release (as far as I know not in a foreseeable future) those who share my bias, and need English subtitles, are given a partial opportunity to see Monica's latest. Thus this biased reviewer's opinion is that Combien tu m'aimes? comes RECOMMENDED. And if a properly-converted R1 NTSC (or native PAL) English friendly release appears then we shall downgrade this review immediately.