The New Eve (La Nouvelle Eve)
Screenplay : Catherine Corsini andMark Syrigas
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 2000
Stars : Karin Viard (Camille), Pierre-Loup Rajot (Alexis), Catherine Frot (Isabelle), Sergi López (Ben), Mireille Roussel (Louise), Nozha Khouadra (Solveig), Laurent Lucas (Emile), Valentine Vidal (Sophie)
Midway through "The New Eve" ("La Nouvelle Eve"), the film's protagonist, a willful, rebellious young Parisian named Camille (Karin Viard) tells a friend that she has fallen in love with a married man. When she asks him what he thinks, he replies, "Well, falling in love with a married man is like fighting for your own unhappiness. It's the best way of going nowhere."
Of course, this doesn't stop Camille. In fact, fighting for her own unhappiness and going nowhere are perhaps the two things she does best, so it's little wonder that she spends most of the film in a state of semi-comic misery. While she vocally pronounces at family gatherings how much she despises monogamy and anything related to bourgeois culture, inside she still has the gnawing desire to be loved and needed. She attempts to bury such feelings by flaunting her aggressive sexuality at nameless orgies, drinking herself into oblivion, and popping antidepressants when the mood strikes her, but none of it seems to work.
She has a romantic revelation when she meets Alexis (Pierre-Loup Rajot), a straight-arrow Socialist political organizer with a wife (Catherine Frot) and two kids. He is the ying to Camille's yang; while she is selfish and impulsive, he is measured and meticulous. They have nothing in common, yet she cannot suppress her desire to be with him. She event joins his political activities just to be close to him.
While he at first rebukes her advances out of respect for his marriage, they are soon engaged in an affair that is logically headed for disaster. I say "logically" because everything in Camille's life is eventually headed for disaster. Because she cannot do anything that is not based solely on satiating her own desires, there is never the possibility of true fulfillment.
While that sounds like a heavy moral load for what is essentially a lightweight sex farce, rest assured it never weighs down the proceedings. If "The New Eve" is ever slow, it mostly due to the narrative pacing of the screenplay by director Catherine Corsini and her co-writer, Mark Syrigas. The film is short--less than 90 minutes--but it takes quite a while to build up steam.
Part of this is due to the slowly evolving nature of the story, but much of it is likely due to how utterly detestable Camille is as a character. It takes guts to center a film around a character who is so egocentric, yet the film works (barely) because of the performance by Karin Viard. Viard has a naturally long face and slightly drooping eyes, which lends her a constant state of sadness. After a while, we get the feeling that Camille is not so much a bad person as she is a lost person. While her decisions often hurt the people around her, you never get the sense that she makes them with any real consciousness outside of herself. She's so drawn into her own world that she cannot see beyond her own skin.
Once again, this is not to make the film sound heavy-handed or hard-hitting. In fact, it is a light and almost completely forgettable affair. There are moments of great humor, including a particularly sadistic scene in which one of Camille's would-be boyfriends surprises her and the audience by slugging her at a train station when she thoughtlessly ditches him to meet up with Alexis. There are also moments of great irony, and the film ends on a sad/funny note that suggests nothing has been learned. Camille will continue to be the way she is because that is her nature. It's not a particularly hopeful conclusion, but it at least has a ring of truth.
Copyright © 2000 James Kendrick