Unfaithful's electric potency begins with a huge gust of wind that knocks housewife Connie Sumner (Diane Lane, Under the Tuscan Sun) and her bag of party supplies into the book-laden arms of antique literature dealer -- and suave foreigner -- Paul (Olivier Martinez). It sweeps the two into its force, causing both a physical and hormonal collision that neither of them could contain if they tried. As a cup of tea and clean bandages slowly lead to African music and muffins through repeat visits, Connie and Paul dive deeper into a blinding affair that would test the boundaries of a simple, seemingly happy wife ingrained with routine. As she fades and follies with her busy husband Ed (Richard Gere, Primal Fear), she's drawn more and more to Paul's dark, desiring glances and youthful frame. Expectedly, the affair spirals out of control, turning into a loin-stirring obsession that would begin to rock the foundation of Connie's home life.
That's the essence that Adrian Lyne's allegory on seduction, infidelity, and desperation yearns to achieve for this swirling liaison. A shiver-inducing, taboo courtship sends the two erotically-charged souls into a remarkably believable whirlwind, a scenario that tries its damndest to stay neutral as it explores an aging couple's rhythm of habit and fatigue. Unfaithful taps into pure passion and lurid desperation while, in the process, crafting a surprisingly engrossing dynamic that has Diane Lane's character communicating directly with the audience's latent desires. Along the way, Lyne calls for us to do some soul searching and conclusion reaching to formulate our own interpretations of Connie's decisions, which steers it away from certain conventions of late night "skin"-ema about extramarital relationships.
Connie and Paul's first sexual encounter is without question the best scene in the film, primarily because it takes everything that's achieved well in Unfaithful and stitches them together into a tightly-edited, evocative kaleidoscope of moments. Nearly wordless, this superbly shot scene radiates with quivering, raw humanity, all of which pours out through sumptuous visuals and smooth editing that give you little choice but to involve yourself with the moment. It mixes Paul's pressing charm and Connie's nervous apprehension with immaculate fluidity, all in snippets that emphasize her emotional deconstruction as she joyfully reflects back on the moments with satisfied-yet-worrisome tears in her eyes. In order to sell this story, Lyne needed to deliver a punch with this gasp-worthy zenith -- as well as cap off the entire escalation of their relationship -- which he delivers with surprisingly intensity, largely based on his actors.
Plain and simple, Lyne's re-imagining of a Claude Chambrol film wouldn't be much more than redundant infidelity claptrap without the award-nominated performance from Diane Lane. Yes, Olivier Martinez handles the part of the wispy European lover with precision, though he teeters along the line of embellishment as his advances grow stronger and stronger. But the way that Lane plays off of his charisma is outstanding, creating a strong visual image of what "human gravity" is really all about. In their potent first scene, I was awe-struck by her electricity; her nervousness relegates her to little more than a quaking leaf, reminiscent of virginal anxiety, while her tear-stained face and bloodshot eyes speaks a world of emotion as she rides the train back to her life of pseudo-emptiness. She unfailingly carries this demeanor across the entire performance, painting the typecast pedestrian wench into a complex human being that elicits equal doses of empathy and scorn.
But then, there's the second half, a lengthy response to Connie's affair that fawns over its own presupposed stagger value much more than its audience. Adrian Lyne tries to sneak in splashes of consequence and impact in Unfaithful to give its sultry substance a little more meaningfulness during its downfall, including reflections on Ed's suspicions and Connie's internal guilt, but instead it turns erratic with a load of hackneyed, far-fetched turns as the film unfurls towards an unsound resolution. Much like Lyne's other affair-based suspense films, namely 9 ˝ Weeks and Fatal Attraction, he goes off on a few problematic tangents after getting his audience stirring on pins and needles. His meditations on sexual deconstruction fizzle out without the expressive punch that hallmarked the first half, though he certainly makes a strong case for it by centering on that tightrope walk between infidelity and honorability -- all the while illustrating its maddening effects on the "middle" man, or woman in this case.
Lyne sells the foreplay in Unfaithful to a degree that matches Mike Nichols Closer or Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, and then lets it fall into a rat's nest of disbelief and passé overkill with a subtle performance from Richard Gere going largely wasted. All of its emotional energy almost ... almost masks the ridiculousness happening during the avalanche following its climax, though nothing can completely coat the ludicrous nature of the events that take place. It's disappointing to see it retread into triteness, especially after building such an intriguing-as-hell courtship between Paul and Connie. Much like the message that the film itself communicates, passion could only take Unfaithful so far -- which results in a brisk torrent of emotional eroticism that tapers off in doubtfulness much too quick. Luckily, Diane Lane still manages to tie together the whole experience, even during this downward spiral.
Video and Audio:
Unfaithful is an exceedingly visual film, one that relies on smooth camera work and sharp editing to convey a range of sensations through physical acting. Fox's Blu-ray transfer for Lyne's film, a 1080p AVC encode for the preserved 1.85:1 image, focuses on color and strong texture detail to envelope us in its high-definition experience. The results are fairly staggering, as clothing textiles, skin textures, and even the rough surfaces of Paul's antique books show off a level of hyper-realistic tangibility. Flesh tones are exquisite this time around as well, sporting a range of healthy pinkish-reds absent from the standard-definition disc. That's to be expected, but what really impressed are the strong range of contrast level and colors -- namely both cold and warm blues and greens -- that could be lost in a lower-range disc.
More importantly, Unfaithful preserves a sleek, film-like presence for its remarkably clean print that stands free of most digital manipulation. Looking closely enough might cause you to spot a minor amount of edge enhancement, something rater noticeable in most shots occurring in the apartment hallway. However, the disc exercises an incredible capability to handle film grain, digital noise, and color solidness to phenomenal degrees. They result in a fluid disc that supports the wide range of rack focuses and depth of field tricks to splendid levels. Unfaithful looks outstanding, which is good considering it's a major element in the film's success.
Supporting the transfer is a strong DTS HD Master Audio track, one that exercises as much depth and dimensionality as the image. Ambiance is paramount here -- as the sounds occurring in the background during several scenes can make or break the mood for its numerous shots -- while Fox has carefully concentrated on for its track. Musical accompaniment and vocal clarity both ring out clean and clear through the track, especially with Olivier Martinez' intentionally thick accent. There's a lot of echoing elements in the film, especially within Paul's head-to-toe wooden apartment, which exercise exceedingly strong depth and airiness about the disc's capacity to handle sprawling sound design. Supporting a stellar visual transfer, Fox have accompanied it with an equally capable audio track. Subtitles, which are excellently design, are available in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Thai, while audio tracks are also available in Spanish and French Dolby 5.1 options.
Commentary with Adrian Lyne:
Lyne's a passionate filmmaker, something that pours through whenever he talks. He's a gripping speaker as well, conveying his thoughtfulness and passion with every ounce of exposition that he focuses on. He, of course, focuses on character motivations and the passion behind their interaction, which presents an enjoyable and somewhat lyrical commentary. He pencils in some production and editing tidbits, but his passion for the material takes control for the most part.
Scene Specific Commentary with Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez (55:38):
Most of this content closes in on character analysis and revelation, as Diane Lane expounds on all the internal gears and switches within Connie's complicated character. She doesn't dive too deep into the scene-specific content though, instead keeping a strong blend between little quips about her performance and her feelings on working with the actors, her goals, and her rapport with director Lyne. The big goal achieved here is that she reveals more about Connie's internal struggle with eroticism, which she elaborates on greatly.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Lyne Commentary (17:46):
Since Unfaithful is a film that hovers around the jealous corners of domestic life, all of these deleted materials only act to elaborate further on the dynamics at play. Lyne's commentary is a very casual track that explains more on Unfaithful's "beats of suspicion", even having moments where he talks to his wife in the background. Several of the scene were completely cut from the film, while others were diced up and scattered into montages for the final cut.
An Affair to Remember: On the Set (15:49):
Mixing honest interviews and solid behind-the-scenes footage, this featurette offers a lot with its relatively short timeframe. It rarely slips in film footage, instead traveling behind Lyne on-set as he looks upon his monitor and calls for numerous takes. It's a sober and insightful track that focuses on further commentary from the director.
Anne Coats on Editing (8:54):
Between Lyne and Coats, the two of them assembled a sharply-edited film that makes the use of a slew of worthwhile footage. Coats explains a bit of this here, as well as explaining her knowledge of Lyne's directing style and her capacity to meld with it. What's great is that she's in an editing studio and takes advantage of it, showing the raw footage on her monitor as she's discussing it.
Also included are an Interview with Charlie Rose (18:52) featuring Gere, Lane, and director Lyne, several Conversation With ... segments with the actors, Director's Script Notes, and an outstanding Theatrical Trailer (SD). Also, keep your eye out for an Easter Egg located in the splash ripple on the the Blu-ray's third menu slate.
With Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez entangled in sumptuous eroticism, Unfaithful builds their chemistry up to sizzling levels within a surprisingly affective climate. It becomes a stark portrait of a cheating wife's multifaceted personality, all orchestrated in spades by Diane Lane's Oscar-nominated turn as Connie. It's just a shame that all this enveloping sensuality builds up only to crash chaotically into a second half of garish suspense-based excess. Unfaithful's Blu-ray captures the film, for all its beauties and blemishes, in a splendid aural and visual experience that allows the audience to soak in every ounce of singing eroticism that director Adrian Lyne has to offer. Matched with the same excellent array of special features present on Fox's DVD from 2002, including a strong commentary and a slew of actor/production insights, Unfaithful steps up to receive a mildly Recommended diagnosis for its outstanding cinematic rendering of a half involving/half diatribe erotic thriller.