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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » For A Woman
For A Woman
Film Movement // Unrated // October 21, 2014
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted October 8, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

If you ever wondered what The Bridges of Madison County meets Munich would look like, you've come to the right place. Part steamy period romance about a married woman's love affair with her brother-in-law, part post-WWII rogue assassin squad thriller, For a Woman tries to cram in a bunch of different tones and genres inside its 110-minute running time.

Shot with a bland visual style that resembles a 90s BBC period drama, the biggest saving grace of the film is the energy and passion writer/director Diane Kurys (Academy Award nominee for Entre Nous) infuses into the character work and performances. According to the production notes, the screenplay was based on Kurys' own family, therefore the personal love and compassion she felt for the characters is evident in her film.

Now whether or not her actual uncle was a mysterious spy hell-bent on getting revenge from the Nazis after Germany's WWII defeat like an unofficial member of The Inglorious Basterds raises some questions of credibility, but who amongst us didn't want to imagine family members as badass secret agents with an open license to mow down some Nazi scum? On the other hand, if her mysterious uncle's post-war shenanigans really did take place down to the last detail, that's amazing! Why did she wait this long to bring this story to life?

The similarities to Bridges of Madison County begin right off the bat as two sisters in the mid 1980s look deeper into the life of their mother, who just passed away. From there, we flashback to a period drama with efficient yet mediocre production design in order to focus on Lena (Melanie Thierry) and Michel (Benoit Magimel), a Jewish married couple living in Lyon who just became French citizens in 1947.

With his roots in the Soviet Union, Michel is a loyal communist who drags Lena to The French Communist Party meetings. Michel and Lena have different interests and passions, their love took a long time to flourish since Lena had to marry Michel out of necessity in order to make it out of the concentration camp where she would have otherwise perished. Even though Lena professes her love to Michel, the fact that their relationship started on shaky ground means it can still crumble at any second.

Therefore, when Michel's mysterious younger brother Jean (Nicolas Duvauchelle) shows up unannounced, a brother Michel thought was dead to boot, Lena gradually falls in love with him even though she's fairly content with her marriage. As more deadly and dangerous reasons for Jean's secret mission in Lyon begin to surface, Lena finds herself in a position where she's going to have to make a very tough decision.

Kurys does her best to keep some tension going as she sporadically doles out information about Jean's true identity to the audience. Unfortunately, she shoots herself in the foot when the wraparound segments that take place in the 80s, where the daughters conduct more research into Lena and Jean's story, reveal who Jean was and who Lena decided to stay with a good hour before any of these revelations take place in the 1940s sequences.

Yet even with the pandering clich├ęs of the genre, it's hard not to feel a modicum of compassion for these characters thanks to the insightful performances from the general cast and Kurys' heartfelt approach to her own material.

The DVD:

Video:

This is an impressive standard definition transfer that looks quite clear and defined upconverted on a relatively small HDTV. The rich colors of the 1940s sequences really pop and aside from some aliasing here and there, there aren't any glaring video noise issues. The otherwise flat cinematography makes For a Woman a non-essential title to seek out on HD.

Audio:

Both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are offered. Even though there are occasional scenes where action ramps up, such as a sequence full of badly rendered CG fire, the film's surround presence never really shows itself. Watching the film on stereo if a surround system is unavailable should be a fine choice.

Extras:

Le Ballon De Rouge: I admire Film Movement's attempts at connecting the audience with short films by including one in each release. In this case, this wonderfully whimsical 20-minute short about a man fantasizing an entire life with a woman she just met in a restaurant in 1963 is better than the main feature.

We also get a Trailer for the feature and some Bios.

Final Thoughts:

For a Woman should provide an adequate distraction for fans of period melodrama, especially those who like some international spy intrigue mixed into their steamy romance. Durys' tender approach to the characters is endearing, especially during the surprisingly emotional ending, but the film as a whole doesn't warrant much more than a rental.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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