A quartet of French marrieds swap partners in this provocative drama, released on DVD by Oscilloscope Laboratories
The primary trick in Four Lovers is trying to make the viewer believe that somehow an arrangement of spouse swapping among young, attractive adults could ever be sustainable. The general presumption, I’d imagine, is just the opposite. Jealousy and other messiness tend to seem inevitable. For the film to successfully hold our attention beyond the sometimes graphic sexual element present, it would need to offer some kind of example of polyamory that defies the expected cliches. It’s not difficult (or, typically, enjoyable) to predict complications and then wait for them to occur.
The film, a 2010 French release also known as Happy Few, takes two married couples and inverts their relationships. Rachel (Marina Foïs) meets Vincent (Nicolas Duvauchelle) when he works on developing a website connected to her job. This later leads to an informal get-together also involving their spouses at the home of Rachel and her husband Franck (Roschdy Zem). It’s here where the couples effectively merge, as Franck kisses Teri (Élodie Bouchez) absent any regret or shame. Following little further discussion, a dynamic is established allowing for sex, ostensibly without consequences, between Franck and Teri and Vincent and Rachel.
Problems initially creep in when the lines are blurred not just as to lovers but also spouses. Franck and Teri are spending time together away from the bedroom. What first had been a sexual arrangement comes to symbolize potential cracks in the marriages elsewhere. The lovers question whether they would have ended up with their current spouse if they had met their new lover earlier. It’s here where the movie’s flaws, however unavoidable, reveal themselves the strongest. It doesn’t seem to want to elicit our sympathy for these characters yet it’s also much too sheepish to try and justify their behavior. The result is something closer to selfishness and immaturity than anything like progressive empowerment. We really have no clue what the status of these marital relationships were prior to the swapping and there’s a similar lack of any indication of how happy they’ll be at the film’s conclusion.
The snapshot here is really just the period where these two couples share their lovers with each other. Director and co-writer Antony Cordier seems interested in little else than the potential reactions and behavior which might accompany such a situation. With that level of limited ambition noted, Four Lovers registers nicely as a surprisingly breezy look at something most of us will never experience yet perhaps retain some level of curiosity regarding. The characters fit the film’s shallow outlook well enough to be utterly forgettable the moment the credits roll. All four photogenic lead actors adequately answer the call as needed. Their collective and natural attractiveness complements well the beautiful overall simplicity found in the film’s aesthetic. The cinematography, credited to Nicolas Gaubin, provides an appealing distraction from a story which can sometimes be as inconsequential as soft core pornography.
Oscilloscope Laboratories has provided Four Lovers with a region-free DVD release in the U.S. It’s kind of an odd choice for the typically reliable distributor. Speaking of which, the addition of two horrifically dated 1950s short films about marriage among the special features must be either one of the most inspired or least compatible ways to supplement a main feature that I can recall in recent memory.
The dual-layered disc presents the film in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It’s a progressive transfer which looks perfectly fine here. There are no signs of unneeded digital manipulation or similar issues. No damage can be seen. The chosen color palette for the natural, often sunlit cinematography seems to be reproduced without incident. Detail and sharpness are at a reasonable level for a standard definition release. The film is enhanced for widescreen televisions.
Audio comes with two options, both in French. One is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that separates dialogue and music across the surround challenges quite nicely. The stereo 2.0 alternative presents no problems either, distributing dialogue cleanly. I heard no instances of damage or unusual issues in the track. English subtitles, white in color, are offered but optional.
The extras provided by Oscilloscope include a set of eight Deleted Scenes (16:04). These can be watched individually or using a Play All function. There’s also the original French theatrical trailer (1:55) and further previews for various O-scope titles. Finally, those archival films – “Who’s Right?” (18:07), from 1950 and “Jealousy” (15:49), from 1954, seem to be taken from beat-up, public domain sources and mainly offer curiosity and/or unintentionally comedic value.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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