Claude Lelouch flings opens the doors, shows us heightened-colours of India, and lets love happen. Well, it doesn’t just ‘happen’ and herein lays the director’s genius: he carefully structures a story while at the same time leads us to believe it is an independent, meandering path. The beautiful tension between control and freedom.
In Un Plus Une, we believe romance roams free between celebrated composer Antoine (Jean Dujardin) and Anna (Elsa Zylberstein). Lelouch places them in his exotic view of a country that he says ‘teaches us that the most beautiful and best investment is generosity and honesty.’ It’s a romantic view, it’s Lelouch’s view and in Un Plus Une it makes magic.
Childless Anna is hugely generous and honest too. She lives in India with her French ambassador husband, Samuel (played by Christopher Lambert), whom, in a certain way, we understand she loves. She meets Antoine at a dinner organised to celebrate his arrival and work on a score for Romeo and Juliet. Antoine is a less optimistic soul, worn out by life and his needy young musician girlfriend whom he has left behind in Paris.
Anna charms Antoine throughout the dinner (by just being herself), and it is evident that Antoine’s interest opens something in her, too. In these moments the two form a bond, which they deepen when they decide to take a journey across India’s terrain: boarding trains, bathing in the Ganges and embracing a mystic lady famous for her hugs. Anna’s husband is a little ruffled by all this, but he understands Anna is a free spirit, and so there is little he can do.
Composer Francis Lai is Lelouch’s long-time collaborator, and given the prominence of music in the auteur’s films, he is something of an unofficial co-director. Here, Lai’s majestic score conducts the lovers, sweeping them up and turning them like leaves in India’s air. Antoine and Anna both land in a place where they are free to fall, helplessly, into each other.
Chemistry between Dujardin and Zylberstein is something of a casting triumph. Dujardin’s disarming smile is a wide, welcoming sofa and Anna collapses into it, all the while holding onto a small reserve. Antoine seeks meaning and substance in his life, and Anna gives it to him. Anna seeks fertility, she desperately wants a child, and Antoine encourages her to seek a solution. There is genuine joy between the two. Lelouch ensures they share an interaction that is believable only because they consistently respond to what they see (and experience) on their adventure together: no cloying mutual infatuation.
Director: Claude Lelouch