Le 4ème morceau de la femme coupée en trois Review
The first feature film by actress-turned-director Laure Marsac, Le quatrième morceau de la femme coupée en trois (“The Fourth Piece of a Woman Cut in Three”) is divided, as the title suggests, into three parts. Technically, at only 69 minutes long falling somewhere between a short film and a full length feature, the film seems more of a moyen-métrage consisting of three distinct short films linked together. Each of the sections give the first-time director a different subject, theme and treatment to work with and demonstrate her ability but, as the title also perhaps suggests, the connections between each of the three films give light to a fourth part, an unspoken element never made explicit, that succeeds in elevating the film from the mundanity of its seemingly commonplace situations.
The opening two sections are indeed nothing special, the first part introducing us to Louise Coleman (Laure Marsac), a young busy middle-class mother who has decided that “out of necessity” (shopping, transporting her young daughter), she needs to learn how to drive. Evidently, it’s also an expression of self-dependence and not having to rely so much on her husband for such motherly practicalities. Any sense of assertiveness is shaken however by the reception she receives on arriving late at the driving school for her first lesson, and any remaining self-confidence is crushed by her gruff, impatient and bored driving instructor (Denis Podalydès) who shows deep frustration at the smallest of mistakes made by the novice driver.
Despite the obstacles, Louise passes her test only to face another “adventure” in the second part of the film. Travelling out of town to a remote shopping centre, she finds herself locked out of her hired car and unable to get assistance from either the rental company or from her husband. It doesn’t help that she is without a mobile phone and has no cash to make the necessary phone calls. She is forced to rely on the good nature of other people she meets, but most of them are rather eccentric or bemused by her situation, and few of them are able to do much to help a young woman locked out of her car.
So far, so what? Le quatrième morceau de la femme coupée en trois doesn’t seem terribly profound, relating the misadventures of young mother a through a couple of everyday, commonplace semi-comic situations of the kind that you can hear shared frequently by colleagues at work. The little episodes are certainly competently directed with nice little details and characterisation, even of they do have a certain feminine perspective, focussing on the “intricacies” of relationships between women and shopping, with emphasis on outfits and shoes, the director even going as far as to ensure that even the backgrounds don’t clash with her red/white colour scheme. And even if the film does have something to say about the difficulties faced by a modern woman trying to assert some independence away from the traditional maternal role, yet still finding herself reliant on others, and indeed her husband, to help her out when the situation gets beyond her, it’s a small point to make.
The third section of the film however, a childhood memory of a significant car journey undertaken with her mother evoked while she sits helplessly waiting in the shopping centre car park, takes the film beyond the situational comedy of the other two sections. Beautifully filmed from the perspective of a child within the car and from an adult looking back on the situation from the outside, this section creates a subtle connection between her young self and her mother and with herself now as a mother that suggests more complex reasons for Louise’s desire to drive and be independent. Marsac manages to evoke memories and sentiments as a strong, formative influence through light, music and contemplation in a manner that recalls Sofia Coppola’s expert working with mood in The Virgin Suicides, and through it the director manages to find the elusive fourth part of the woman cut in three that brings everything in this simple short film together and give it meaning.
Le quatrième morceau de la femme coupée en trois is released in the France by Les Films du Paradoxe. The film is presented on a single-layer disc, in PAL format, and is encoded for Region 2. The disc does not contain English subtitles.
The single-layer disc provides more than enough for space for a strong presentation of a 70 minute film with only a single trailer for the extra features. The image is clear and sharp throughout, with an accurate tone and good colour definition, particularly on the reds which dominate the colour scheme. There is just a slight touch of softness in some of wider shots, but otherwise no issues at all in the print and no evidence of edge-enhancement or compression artefacts in its digital transfer. The original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is preserved and anamorphically enhanced.
The film’s soundtrack is presented in straightforward Dolby Digital 2.0 and it functions well with no noticeable issues.
There are no subtitles on the DVD, neither English nor French for hard of hearing. There are a few introductory and closing thoughts represented in French titles at the start and end of the film, and these are retained in the original font as part of the film and not digitally remastered.
The only extra feature on the disc itself is the original Trailer for the film and some advertisements for other titles released by Les Films du Paradoxe. A booklet is enclosed which features an interview with the director about aspects of the film and how they apply to her own life. The text evidently is in French only.
Le quatrième morceau de la femme coupée en trois does take a look at life very much from a female perspective, but thankfully not in the manner of those horrible French female relationship crisis dramas that usually feature Karin Viard. In the booklet that comes with the DVD, Laure Marsac, referring to Eric Rohmer’s work, talks about films having a “perfume” which lingers with you when they finish, and in many respects her film does manage to create a perfume of its own, reaching out to other senses. As well as demonstrating strong technical, structural and writing skills as a first-time director, Marsac also shows that, like Rohmer, she is capable of drawing subtle resonances from the mundane and the ordinary aspects of life from a uniquely female perspective. The sentiments evoked by Le quatrième morceau de la femme coupée en trois are certainly minor, but expertly achieved, they show no small amount of talent. The film is, clearly, more than the sum of its parts...