Post coitum, animal triste

Brigitte Rouan's 1997 comedy-drama opens with an image of a cat in heat. A 40ish book editor, wife, and mother (Rouan) falls in love with a hydraulics engineer about half her age (Boris Terral) and goes slightly gaga during and after their short-lived affair. In a contrapuntal subplot her lawyer husband (Patrick Chesnais) is defending an older woman who's murdered her adulterous husband, and then goes gaga himself once he finds out about his wife. The film is pretty good at suggesting various mental states in physical and cinematic terms—the heroine floating on a motorized cloud, the husband experiencing a growing chasm between himself and his client—yet its greatest virtue could be its low-key reasonableness in showing how everyone copes with crisis, a modest and affectionate detachment that approaches wisdom. Rouan has acted in films by Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette, and Bertrand Tavernier, among many others; as director, screenwriter, and star, she?s too immersed in her part to give a show-offy performance, and consequently the film fits her like a glove.

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