L'Ennui immediately brings forth shades of Lolita, another book turned into a movie that dealt with a relationship between an older man and a younger woman. L'Ennui is based on the book by Alberto Moravia, and deals more with obsession than with an actual relationship. The movie contains considerable nudity and sex, making it superficially similar to Romance, Catherine's Briellat's sexually explicit recent film.

The story centers on Martin (Charles Berling, Ridicule), a disenchanted philosophy teacher. Six months ago, he separated from his wife (Arielle Dombasie), though they are still close. He feels that something is missing in his life, but he doesn't know what. Teaching no longer gives him joy, and his wife's happiness serves to further his own depression. One night, he notices an older man with a very young woman, and begins to follow them around. The couple parts, and Martin follows the man into a bar. He ends up paying the man's tab, and the man gives him a painting as an IOU. A couple days later, Martin goes to collect his money and discovers the man had died. Odder yet, the man's apartment is filled with paintings and sketches of nude women, and the man died while having sex. Later, Martin meets Cecilia (Sophie Guillemin), the man's companion and model, and begins a purely sexual relationship with her. Martin is intrigued with Cecilia, both because of her age (she is 17), and the fact that the painter had been having sex with her several times a day.

Martin begins to think that sex may be what he is missing. As his relationship continues with Cecilia, it is apparent that things are only getting worse. Martin uses Cecilia for sex, and nothing else. Any attempts to engage Cecilia in conversation prove unfruitful. He knows little about her personal likes, they just meet and have sex. On the other hand, Cecilia is just a shell of a person. The only time she shows any emotion is during lovemaking. At all other times she is quiet, and refuses (or cannot) give her opinion on anything, or gives evasive answers. Martin becomes increasingly frustrated, and begins suspecting that Cecilia is having an affair. Martin obsession grows as time goes on. He demands to know at all times where Cecilia is, who she is doing things with, why her phone was busy, and all the other things that stalkers like to know. He begins following her around, becoming almost abusive at some points. He tries to break things off with Cecilia, but is unsuccessful. His wife cannot understand his actions. He doesn't find Cecilia intelligent or beautiful, there is nothing spectacular about her at all. She is completely ordinary in every aspect.

As in Romance, the on-screen sex is not erotic, but this isn't because of a failure of the film; Martin is grasping at trying to find what he is lost. For once, the sex isn't supposed to be erotic. It is more of a task, or chore, for both involved. Berling gives realistic portrait of an obsessed man, skirting the edges of the pathetic, but never quite crossing the line. Guillemin's Cecilia is nearly devoid of emotion, completely unreadable. Director Cedric Khan stretched this tale out to two hours, which probably wasn't the best thing to do. It is certainly disturbing watching Martin's behavior become increasingly erratic, but little else happens in the movie. Some of the middle parts seem to drag on a tad too long. Otherwise, L'Ennui is a moderately interesting study on the effects of jealousy and obsession on a man.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, French with English subtitles, Not Rated, but lots of sexual situations and nudity, and easy R.

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