We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Ozon's 5x2 (Cinq fois deux): Failed Relationships (1) · 4 July 05

My dear Fanny,

Yesterday Izzy and I saw a remarkable film I want to recommend to all who come to this blog: Franços Ozon’s Cinq foix deux, Engished as 5×2. Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi plays Marion, the wife; Stéphane Freiss, Gilles, the husband. They were brilliant, effective, utterly believable, much subtlety of body movement, face, tone. They reminded me of the chemistry of the pair who did Before Sunset and Before Sunrise (Ethan Hawke as Jessie, & Julie Delpy as Celine).

It traces the history of the relationship between Marion and Gilles backwards. Cinq fois deux refers to the number of scenes: 1) the divorce and previously agreed-upon going to bed afterwards; 2) we see them not much earlier having his brother and his brother’s younger casually cruel lover over for dinner (before hand he is feeding the child, and after slips out of bed to go to sleep with the child in the child’s bed); 3) we see her giving birth; 4) the wedding; and finally, 5) when and how they met and began to fall in love.

Ozon’s central theme seems to be how little we understand one another, how we are driven by passions we don’t understand. The emotion shadowed gradually is poignancy: sorrow for what has, it seems inevitably, been lost. The film seems to say only passing relationships can have joy, for once you are utterly familiar with someone you will use them to project your hangups (the man) and expect from them selflessness they cannot have (the woman).

Ozone thinks physical sex counts enormously. At the core of the failed relationship in this film was the man’s sexuality: Gilles’ desire for anal intercourse, his idea that his Marion (and all women) likes to see him (and maybe other men) make love with other women, grandiose dreams and utter inadequacies: on the night they wed he is too drunk and exhausted and falls asleep so she goes for a walk and has a casual encounter with someone out in the grass.

Early in the film we see Gilles "make love" to Marion, now his ex-wife and it hurts. He is rough, impatient and finally resorts to anal intercourse because she won’t or can’t open frontally. We see her weary anguished aging face and body. "Arrête!" "Arrête!" But he can’t think or do anything else it seems; he can’t arouse her any more (if he ever could): the film opens on the terrible scene in the divorce lawyer’s where in this de-humanized abstract language he divided everything up (including the child care and support), and then we see them walk down a hall and go into a room and go to bed together. This was pre-arranged. And it’s too late. He has no concern it seems for her embarrassment. He’s presented as utterly self-centered and she doesn’t want this control. She has found she likes living alone. This line echoes one I heard the older mother figure who is pregnant in Saving Face tells her daughter towards the end of that film. She closes the door on him and he too turns away.

The scene of giving birth was a stunner. He could not get himself to come upstairs to see her give birth. So she was all alone. She has a C-section. What can be conveyed by a camera is riveting. Ozone films her putting her feet down on the floor as she tries to get up from her bed holding onto the pole (where her hand is attached by an IV). I felt her pain as she ever so gently put that foot down and then harder. Ouch! I had 2 C-sections. They hurt. And that IV. She makes her way to where the baby is in a glass case just surrounded by tubes and things hard put into him. It was a premature birth since the placenta had gotten into the way of the baby’s growth. Had it been allowed to go to term, it would have been stillborn. She is so hurt he doesn’t come upstairs to be with her. He all the while eats exquisite meals downstairs, drinks wine and smokes away. (Everyone smokes away quite effectively in this film.) It’s her mother who stayed. This is but one stage in the deterioration of their marriage.

At the time of the young pair’s wedding, Marion’s mother (Françoise Fabian) and father (Michael Lonsdale) dance lovingly; now they speak to one another with such raw insults I thought for sure I was listening to my parents or typical lower middle class New Yorkers squabbling in the street. We are watching two marriages deteriorate. The older couple do not separate and the feeling is while they cannot divide (their age, their dependency, their mores), they are tearing one another apart to stay to the end.

Ozon makes up for the anti-feminism of Huit Femmes and I think goes deeper into a woman’s psyche than he did in Sous la Sable. The film favored the woman’s point of view. By going backwards Ozone created a sense of loss and poignancy. When last seen the Marion and Gilles are swimming out together in the water. Two oung people’s heads in the distance. Slow fade on hope. I also thought of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage. I’ve an idea this was alluded to now and again.

I wondered if it’s true that in French weddings the justice of the peace says aloud these abstractions from the civil code. They made public that the society regards this utterly pragmatically. The words had the same de-humanizing effect as the divorce words. Afterwards we did see the guests dancing, drinking, just celebrating away. That was one of several very good (contented, passionate) moments of the film. Another: the pair smoking marijuana together the night his brother visits.

Ozone seems to look at women as seals: the way he photographs the middle of their bodies. Still, he continues his love affair with whatever woman he has at the center of the film. I thought maybe he was at worship of Charlotte Rampling because she is so beautiful as an older woman; but he practices the same techniques for Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi at each stage of the film.

You are missing something significant this summer in the area of films exploring love, sex, and marriage, if you don’t see this. I loved Sous la Sable; this is better.


Posted by: Ellen

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