Gabrielle (Patrice Chéreau). 90 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (May 26). For venues and times, see Movies, page 101. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Gabrielle is a tragedy of manners, a claustrophobic chamber drama adapted by director Patrice Chéreau (La Reine Margot) and Anne-Louise Trividac , his collaborator on Intimacy and Son Frère, from a short story by Joseph Conrad .
Jean Hervey ( Pascal Greggory ), prosperous businessman in turn-of-the-last-century Paris (the clothes let us know the time period) returns home to find a note from his wife, Gabrielle ( Isabelle Huppert ), that says that she's left him for another man and will not return. But a few hours later, she does come back, and the remaining 70 minutes of the film are a relentless dismantling of the walls of politesse that held the marriage together.
Eric Gautier 's camera, trapped in the rooms of a bourgeois Parisian home, sticks so tight to the actors that we're shocked when it pulls back for a wider shot.
Of course, few actors can convey as much in extended close-ups as Huppert. Her emotional effects are minute, precise and devastating, as is the near indifference of her line readings. "If I'd known you loved me, even for a minute, I wouldn't have come back."
But it's Greggory, a veteran French film actor (he first appeared opposite Huppert in 1979 in André Techiné's The Bronte Sisters), who sets the film's tone of desolation.