The inner workings of a relationship that involves more than two participants – either implicitly or explicitly – have regaled audiences for generations, with the more titillating titles amongst the canon certainly drawing a crowd. Whether dealing with the impact of adultery, the effect of a love triangle (or rectangle, as is common of late) or the intimacies of a ménage à trois, cinema has taken to the topic, resulting in output as varied as Les Diaboliques, Jules et Jim, Threesome, The Dreamers, Y tu mamá también, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Chloe. The Three Way Wedding (Le mariage à trois ), the latest feature from French filmmaker Jacques Doillon (Le premier venu, Raja and Carrément à l’Ouest), explores a set of romances with more than two partners, with each unravelling in the midst of divorce. Starring Pascal Greggory, Agathe Bonitzer, Julie Depardieu and Louis Garrel, the film examines the complex after-effects of marital breakdown, made more so by the inability of the central couple to let go as they both attempt to move on.
As he prepares for his latest production, playwright August (Greggory, La Vie en Rose) must contend with the two female influences in his life. His ex-wife Fanny (Bonitzer, Made In Paris) is intent on starring in his work, projecting a professional exterior during the day whilst beckoning him to her bed at night. His assistant Harriet (Depardieu, daughter of Public Enemy #1‘s Gérard and star of Female Agents) is the source of intrigue, with her youthful air and apparent disinterest in her boss. When Fanny brings her new, much younger boyfriend Théo (Garrel, Heartbeats) to August’s house to discuss the play and their parts in it, the relationships between the quartet – ranging from ex-partners to current colleagues, potential spouses to future collaborators – unravel as they contemplate their predicament. Only director Stéphane (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Father Of My Children) remains on the periphery, providing the sole voice of reason amidst the post-marriage mayhem, from the perspective of an objective yet informed bystander.
Concerning itself with the increasingly fluid boundaries of modern relationships as well as the interplay of art and enthusiasm, The Three Way Wedding (released elsewhere under the English title of In The Four Winds) is a quintessentially French film, but with a theatre look and feel. Dialogue-heavy, with rapid-fire exchanges and witty banter part and parcel of the characters’ vocal tool kit, it takes a five-person situation that lends itself to farce and teases it out to both comic and dramatic effect. Of course, as with any feature with farcical leanings, Doillon’s effort won’t appeal to all, particularly his indulgent – and overly lengthy – meanderings between the multiple couples in crisis. Although the noted writer / director continues his trend of capturing excellent performances from his leading ladies (having worked with Jane Birkin in La Fille prodigue, her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg in Amoureuse, Juliette Binoche in La Vie de famille and Isabelle Huppert in La vengeance d’une femme), The Three Way Wedding fails to turn its significant female presence into anything more than an expressive yet insubstantial feature, instead existing in the space between amusing and neurotic, and passionate and melodramatic.
The Three Way Wedding is screening as part of the Windows On Europe film festival, kicking off in Canberra in February before touring Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne until April 2011. The Brisbane season runs from February 19 – 25 at Dendy Portside Cinemas.