Looking at the cast for Un Fil a la Patte a.k.a The Art of Breaking Up (2005), a film based on the well-known play by popular French playwright Georges Feydeau, one would certainly have every reason to expect something special. Emmanuelle Beart (L'Enfer), Domiunique Blanc (Le Pornographe), Stanislas Merhar (Adoplhe), and Charles Berling (Demonlover), these are only a few of the names associated with this ambitious project. Unfortunately despite of the talented cast, Michel Deville, the director of Un Fil a la Patte, does not seem to have had a clear idea how precisely to use the potential (and acting skills) of those who agreed to contribute.
The story of Un Fil a la Patte evolves around the flamboyant Lucette (Emmanuelle Beart), her savvy admirer Edouard de Bois (Charles Berling), and a group of wealthy snobs who like playing noble games amongst each other. As Edouard de Bois must immediately sign a marriage settlement with the naïve Viviane (Sara Forester), a wealthy woman with a sizeable dowry, thus putting an end to his fascination with the unsuspecting Lucette, things between the two lovers become quite complicated. The young man is faced with a number of challenges where lies, betrayals, and meanness will prove too difficult to outmaneuver at once.
It isn't terribly difficult to tell why Un Fil a la Patte fails to impress. Starting with the dialog, an incoherent mess of scattered and poorly written lines, all the way to the actual direction, which feels so unpolished it is hard to believe no one took notice of it, director Michel Deville appears to have completely missed the point of Georges Feydeau's play. Instead of a witty farce Un Fil a la Patte very much sounds and looks like a real one-a play where neither the actors nor the director were aware of each other's intentions.
Furthermore, despite the visible attempts of the cast (Charles Berling's protagonist is the one lonely figure in this film that did not collapse immediately) to overcome the weak script the more the story progressed the stronger the desire in me became to simply turn off my player. Quite frankly I do not recall when was the last time I was so gravely disappointed by a French acting team graced with the presence of so many stars. Frame after frame Un Fil a la Patte continued to drag alone without providing the tiniest of reasons one would need to sit through it.
European cinema prides itself with its ability to create subtle characters, reveal emotions that Hollywood is incapable of recreating on the big screen. The best of European cinema also tends to provide an aesthetic touch, a sense of finesse if you will, when intricate subjects are being filmed. When it comes to period-films, be it a drama, a romantic story, or a witty parody, it is once again the emphasis on detail that elevates these productions above everything else the rest of the world creates. Unfortunately, inside the promising shell of Un Fil a la Patte, a film with plenty of ambition(s), there is only mediocrity, one that tends to annoy even the most tolerable of film aficionados.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Un Fil a la Patte looks quite poor! Produced by Canadian distribs Seville Pictures, a company whose output I like a great deal, this R1 DVD is a direct PAL-NTSC port of the unsubbed French disc revealing the worst of "ghosting" and "combing" issues we have come to associate with such transfers. In fact, if you own a progressive 16/9 TV do not even consider giving this disc a chance-you would be gravely disappointed by the lack of focus (the video quality is a mess of paramount proportions). Aside from that I suppose one could argue somewhat successfully that the R1 version has managed to partially retain some of the contrast and vivid colors (a lot of bleeding here) from the French disc but overall this is one hugely disappointing affair. I am not impressed!!!
How Does the DVD Sound?
Provided with its original French 5.1 track and optional English subtitles (strangely there are no optional French subtitles) I did not detect any issues here. As this is mostly a dialog-driven film, with a few minor exceptions, the bulk of the presentation is more than decent. Dialog is easy to follow and the English subtitles are of excellent quality.
Aside from the original theatrical trailer and a generic "Making of" where a few of the cast members share their thoughts on the film, their involvement with the project, and the director, there is nothing else to be found here.
What an enormously disappointing film!! Neither the script nor the acting here are on par with what one would expect from such a talented cast. The adaptation of the original play is also totally unacceptable (perhaps the director's wife, Rosalinde Deville, should redirect her creative aspirations in a different field as film adaptation is obviously not her forte). As to the actual video presentation…yet another PAL-hack by Seville! Of the worst kind!!!