Deux (1989)
A film directed by Claude Zidi

Genre: Drama / Romance

Film Review

Deux photo
Director Claude Zidi is best known for his mainstream comedies - shameless audience-grabbers such as Astérix et Obélix contre César (1999) and L'Aile ou la Cuisse (1976), and more sophisticated rib-ticklers like Les Ripoux (1984) and Ripoux contre ripoux (1990). With most of his films attracting audiences in excess of two million spectators, Zidi is one of France's most commercially successful filmmakers, and no one could ever mistake him for a great auteur. It is regrettable that his one attempt at a serious drama, Deux, was ill-received both by the critics and the cinema-going public; it was in fact his second biggest flop (after the truly abysmal La Boîte, 2001). On its first release in 1989, it attracted an audience of 0.3 million, an incredibly bad result given that its lead actor, Gérard Depardieu, was at the height of his popularity. The failure of this film, Zidi's most adult work, doubtless convinced the director that he should stick to what he knew best, populist comedy for the masses.

Deux may not be Claude Zidi's best film but it is certainly not his worst. It is a film that is, in some respects, ahead of its time, exploring with brutal honesty the conflict between the dictates of the human heart and the modern day practicalities of settling down and starting a life with someone. Rigorously unsentimental, Deux is a modern romantic drama which is perhaps easier to engage with today than when it was made. Zidi directs the film with far more panache and restraint than he exhibits in his boisterous comedies, and there is little to fault in the performances of its two lead actors, Gérard Depardieu and Maruschka Detmers (a Dutch actress made famous by her appearance in Jean-Luc Godard's Prénom Carmen).

The only area in which Deux falls down is its screenwriting, which lacks the depth and finesse that the film badly needs to avoid slipping into caricature. Most of the weaknesses in the script are well-concealed by Zidi's focussed and expressive direction, and by the well-judged performances from Depardieu and Detmers. The two actors bring genuine feeling and sensitivity to their portrayals of two independently minded people who fall in love but tragically cannot commit to their relationship. Unfortunately, the bigger plot contrivances are harder to sweep under the carpet. When the film hurls its Deus ex machina at us in its final reel, it does so with as much subtlety as a herd of elephants suddenly bursting onto the set. A dramatic plot twist of this kind might have been acceptable in a 1950s melodrama, but here it just feels unnecessarily gratuitous and renders what follows slightly absurd. With a little more restraint and focus, Deux could easily have been Claude Zidi's finest film, rather than merely an overlooked footnote in his career.
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Film Credits

Directed by Claude Zidi
Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Maruschka Detmers, Michelle Goddet, Philippe Leroy, Beata Tyszkiewicz, François Cluzet, Wojciech Pszoniak, Ronald Guttman, Gérard Beaume, Madeleine Cheminat
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