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For Your Consideration: '3 cœurs'

How one person comes to love another is a mystery. How a character played by Belgian actor Benoît Poelvoorde (Man Bites Dog) beguiles characters played by Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia) and Chiara Mastroianni is something greater than a mystery. Yet that is the conceit at the heart of Three Hearts, the new film from Paris-born director Benoît Jacquot, his first feature since Les adieux à la reine. Poelvoorde plays Marc Beaulieu, a rather plain tax official from Paris who meets Sylvie, played by Gainsbourg, on a trip to a provincial town, played in the film by the city of Valence, with gorgeous mountain panoramas. They agree to meet in Paris, in the Jardin des Tuileries, but circumstances prevent the meeting. Of course, they have not exchanged phone numbers or even names, in spite of the lesson we all should have learned from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise. When he returns to the town to look for her, he meets and falls in love with another woman, Mastroianni's Sophie, who turns out to be Sylvie's sister.

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This is the sort of film where not much happens, and the script, co-written by Jacquot with Julien Boivent, even manages to stave off the inevitable confrontation among the three title characters. Through considerable bending of the story's plausibility, none of them is really to blame, for neither sister knows of the other's involvement and Marc does not know they are sisters until it is far too late. When Marc is married to Sophie and they have a son together, the truth finally comes out, although tragedy is delayed for as long as possible. What makes the film most alluring is the world of the sisters' family it evokes, not least through the beauty of the three actresses who star in it. Catherine Deneuve, as Sylvie and Sophie's mother, reigns over a grand and beautiful house, having passed on -- what else -- her antique business to her daughters. Deneuve, disappointingly, does not have much to say or contribute to the film, aside from presiding over countless family meals, the grande dame to her fingertips.

This film is now playing at Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema.

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