Yewande Omotoso was born in Barbados and grew up in Nigeria, moving to South Africa with her family in She is the author of Bom Boy, published in South Africa in In she was a finalist in the inaugural, pan-African Etisalat Fiction Prize. She lives in Johannesburg, where she writes and has her own architectural practice. For the latest books, recommendations, offers and more.
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But because they keep their past a secret, they bestow meaning on it. They tacitly agree that there is still a past, and that they do still share a secret. In no time at all, they're meeting in town for steamy afternoons in one of those French hotels where the concierge has seen everything.
This situation is a quintessential one for Truffaut, the French director who has successfully made more than 20 films without yet portraying a healthy, mature relationship between a man and a woman. All of his lovers are doomed by the demons of their passion, and by underlying streaks of violence in his serious films and frivolous inability to make a commitment in his comedies. Stanley Kauffman, the critic for the New Republic, bluntly observed not long ago that Truffaut only has three subjects 1 men in love with being in love, 2 women who kill men and 3 children.
There aren't many scenes with the kids in this film.
But the male and the female are certainly in love with love: They seem more fascinated by the fact of their affair than by each other. And they're tragically out of sync. They cannot love each other simultaneously. Each one apparently needs to be rejected by the other to fully arouse his or her passion. The humor is so laced with hints of doom that when, in one early sequence, Bernard locks himself out of his car, the motor running, and must send his small son into the car, through the trunk, to unlock the door, one expects the child somehow to put the machine into gear and go crashing to his death.
Bernard and Mathilde are commonplace people transformed by a kind of need that forever separates them from everyone else. They can't live apart but they certainly can't live together. They are too much alike, though they are in agreement on things only during the act of love. Talking about their earlier affair, Mathilde says: ''I loved you. You were merely in love.
One night Arlette awakens to find that Bernard is not in bed with her and goes downstairs to find him having a snack, eating by the light of the open refrigerator door, as if the turning on of the light in the kitchen would be some kind of admission of guilt. They hear the sounds of cats in the yard. It is typical of Mr.
Neighbourly complicity: Yewande Omotoso's The Woman Next Door | Arts and Culture | Books | M&G
Truffaut's methods that nothing ever happens quite as expected. You might think - but incorrectly, as it turns out - that the film's and the affair's climax has been reached during a lawn party that Mathilde and Philippe throw for themselves before leaving on vacation. Bernard watches the festivities with increasing fury until he goes into the house, drags Mathilde downstairs and beats her in front of her husband, his wife and the rest of the guests.
That would be the melodramatic end in any ordinary film, but ''The Woman Next Door'' is never ordinary or predictable in any of its aspects, including its settings in and around Grenoble.
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Truffaut understands that France is bigger than a familiar Paris. Depardieu is not only the busiest French film actor alive at the moment, he also must be the most resourceful and compelling. His Bernard is charming and loving on the surface and an emotional bandit beneath. Fanny Ardant, a stage actress new to films, is perfectly cast as Mathilde.
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She brings to the role no psychological baggage from other appearances, so that she really is as mysterious to us as she is to Bernard. Even her beauty is mysterious, being slightly coarse as well classically refined. One can never be sure whether she's going to abandon herself to rapture or tell off Bernard in terms both angry and accurate.
It's a measure of the way the film works that when, at one point, she walks into the temporarily empty house next door, asking Bernard's little boy to show her his toys, we are afraid that she might strangle the child - which, of course, she doesn't. The supporting roles are played with equal brilliance, especially by Mr.
Garcin as Mathilde's husband, a role that might have been thankless but that has its own unsentimental nobility.
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