A Few Days With Me

After a somewhat promising beginning, Claude Sautet’s adaptation of a novel by Jean-Francois Josselin about an eccentric, diffident heir to a department store chain (Daniel Auteuil) falling in love with a maid (Sandrine Bonnaire) becomes a rather ho-hum French melodrama (with an irritatingly tinny Philippe Sarde score) needlessly stretched out to 131 minutes. Sautet, best known for such tepid (if competent and popular) 70s pictures as Cesar and Rosalie and Vincent, Paul, Francois, and the Others, shows the same unadventurous stylistic assurance as before, and continues to be pretty good with actors (Auteuil’s repressed hero remains marginally interesting, and Bonnaire does her best with a two-dimensional part). But the sluggish complacency of his direction tends to squeeze most of the juice out of the plot, which perpetually threatens to explode with the passion of a La chienne or Scarlet Street but never really gets ignited. There’s a bit of comedy when the hero persuades the maid to move in with him and they throw a party designed to confound class divisions; but the film’s position toward most of its characters never seems much more than halfhearted, and when offscreen narration is introduced toward the end to take care of some exposition, one feels that formally, at least, Sautet is really grasping after straws. With Danielle Darrieux (as the hero’s mother), Jean-Pierre Marielle, and Dominique Lavanant. (JR)

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