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15 Petites Coupures (Small Cuts) (2003)
Reviewed by Tom Dawson
updated 25th August 2003

reviewer's rating
three star


Pascal Bonitzer

Pascal Bonitzer
Emmanuel Salinger

Daniel Auteuil
Kristin Scott Thomas
Ludivine Sagnier
Emmanuelle Devos
Jean Yanne
Pascale Bussières

95 minutes

Artificial Eye

29th August 2003


World Cinema

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Two women meet by chance in a Parisian street: it turns out that Gaelle (Emmanuelle Devos) is the wife and Nathalie (Ludivine Sagnier) is the much younger girlfriend of the same Communist journalist. The hack in question is the disillusioned Bruno (a deadpan Daniel Auteuil), who's getting tired of people offering him sympathy about "the Wall and that".

Visited by his uncle's secretary (Pascale Bussières), he reluctantly agrees to travel to Grenoble, where his elderly relative Gérard (Jean Yanne) is fighting a mayoral election.

Charged by Gérard with delivering an important private letter to a medical specialist, Bruno takes directions from a mysterious Russian woman, before finding himself lost in the fog in a dark forest. Which is where he stumbles across the residence of the bewitching Béatrice (Kristin Scott Thomas)

French writer-director Pascal Bonitzer follows-up "Rien Sur Robert" with another bizarre comedy, in which every individual appears to be undergoing their own crisis of belief, be it personal, political, or both.

Littered with symbolic objects such as a ring, a gun and lipstick, which get swiftly passed around between the characters, the rambling "Petites Coupures" is powered by a dream-like logic rather than a coherent plot. Bruno himself, who suffers the cuts and wounds referred to in the film's title, is less a man of autonomous action, than a passive figure propelled by events and desires beyond his control.

Certainly Scott Thomas shines as the haughtily enigmatic Béatrice, yet for all the film's droll asides and sharp self-reflexivity - "We're not in a tragedy, we're in a bedroom farce", somebody quips - "Petites Coupures" suffers the same fundamental problem as "Rien Sur Robert", namely that it carries surprisingly little emotional charge.

Bonitzer seems happy to view Bruno's misadventures with amused detachment, but viewers may struggle to genuinely engage with his predicaments.

In French with English subtitles.

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