Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

The present. Recently separated from his wife, Parisian philosophy lecturer Martin finds himself ever more alienated from the niceties of his upper-middle-class life. Driving through a red-light district, he witnesses an altercation between 17-year-old Cécilia and the much older Meyers. He follows the latter into a sex bar and saves Meyers from a nasty beating. Meyers rewards him with one of his paintings, but on visiting his studio a few days later, Martin learns the painter has recently expired while making love with his model - Cécilia, with whom Meyers had been involved in a highly-charged affair. Martin now begins to meet her for regular sex.

Riddled with self-doubt and tortured by unremitting self-analysis, Martin is intrigued, infuriated and finally driven round the bend by Cécilia's inscrutable ability to live only in the present. When he learns she is two-timing him with an actor her own age (Momo), jealousy gives way to increasingly deranged behaviour. Cécilia abandons her dying father, leaves Martin behind, and goes on holiday with Momo. Martin picks up a prostitute in his car and promptly crashes into a tree. Martin recovers in hospital from his injuries, hopeful about the possibility of now taking his life forward again.


In its stark scrutiny of sex and sexuality, Cédric Kahn's compelling transposition of Alberto Moravia's 1960 novel La noia (Boredom) to a highly stylised contemporary Paris is an extension of his critically acclaimed Bar des rails and Trop de bonheur. Stylistically, however, where the quasi-documentary social realism of these earlier features situates them under the 'young French cinema' umbrella, L'Ennui has higher production values and constitutes an assured fresh departure. The film carries visual and thematic echoes of Last Tango in Paris (1972), First Name Carmen, and some of the work of Catherine Breillat. The key initial encounter between Cécilia and Martin, for instance, is reminiscent of the sexual stand-off played out between the 14-year-old Lili and Maurice in the seaside hotel room in Breillat's 36 Fillette - a film on which Kahn worked as assistant editor.

Sex in L'Ennui is presented in a resolutely detached manner. Titillation or the threat of slippage into the pornographic is subverted through the strong grounding of the sex scenes in the narrative, the eruption of humour (a deadpan quip, or the rhythmic thumping of a bed on a wooden floor), or simply sheer horror at the sexual violence. Kahn's methodical dissection of the formation and disintegration of an intense relationship between two pretty unappealing human beings is almost scientific in its precision: just as the movement and interaction of inanimate particles might be magnified through the lens of a microscope, so Kahn charts the fallout from the chance collision of two bodies finding themselves locked into the same deadly orbit. The sequences in which Cécilia and Martin have sex are no more or less significant within the overall canvas of the film than any of the other scenes that take place outside, inside, or in cars, and where we are just as alert to the emotional investment at stake in the spatial proximity or distance between their bodies.

The Meyers character - hauntingly embodied by the late Robert Kramer - looms large. Martin is increasingly plagued by the possibility that his passion for Cécilia may be no more than a hollow rerun of that previously shared between Cécilia and Meyers. But Meyers also represents painting, and his presence signals Kahn's careful attention to composition and colour. The rapprochement of opposites within the narrative - of Cécilia's inscrutable calm and emotionless voice and Martin's edgy gestures and clipped, nervy tones - is powerfully underscored by a mise en scène in which fluid camera movements are constantly threatened by the unannounced cut. Similarly, Martin's frenetic hyperactivity is portrayed not only through distorting lenses, but in startling leaps in rhythm and pace. As his intermittent bouts of enraged obsession give way to near-madness, we find ourselves ensnared in an increasingly hallucinatory narrative. Beautifully crafted and superbly acted, this often darkly funny and disturbing film deserves a wide audience.


Cédric Kahn
Paulo Branco
Cédric Kahn
Laurence Ferreira Barbosa
Based on the novel La noia by
Alberto Moravia
Director of Photography
Pascal Marti
Yann Dedet
Art Director
François Abelanet
©Gemini Films
Production Companies
Paulo Branco presents a Gemini Films/Ima Films co-production with the participation of Canal+/Centre National de la Cinématographie
Associate Producer
Madragoa Filmes
Production Managers
Philippe Saal
Antoine Beau
Unit Production Managers
Jean-Dominique Chouchan
Hacéne Belkhedra
Mohand Hadjlarbi
Unit Manager
Mathieu Lévy
Elisabeth Bocquet
Assistant Directors
Valérie Megard
Thomas Allandari
Script Supervisor
Christine Brottes
Sarah Teper
Antoinette Boulat
Antoine Carrard
Anne Marepiano
Set Decorator
Sabine Delouvrier
Gérald Garand
Françoise Clavel
Janina Ryba
Key Make-up
Corinne Maillard
Key Hairdressers
Josée Berry
Studio J.
Christine Chomicki
"Melao de Cana" by Hippolita Pedroso, performed by Celia Cruz with La Sonora Matancera; "Mi bajo" by Miguel Roman, performed by Conjuto Casino; "La prieta Linda" by Memo Zalamanca, performed by Orchestre Hermanos Castro; "Maracaïbo" by Noro Morales, Pickering, Rodriguez, performed by Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra; "Miner's Son (Aquatic Mix)" by/performed by Beth Hirsch; "Lovely to Look At" by Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh, Jerome Kern, performed by The Laura Fontaine Trio; "Bombay by Night" by S. Yasotha; "Siegfried Idyl" by Richard Wagner, performed by Liszt Chamber Orchestra, directed by Ernest Lukacs
Sound Engineer
Jean-Paul Mugel
Studio Recording
Fabien Adelin
Dominique Hennequin
Michel Filippi
Key Sound Editor
Pascal Villard
Sound Effects
Nicolas Becker
Charles Berling
Sophie Guillemin
Arielle Dombasle
Robert Kramer
Leopold Meyers
Alice Grey
Cécilia's mother
Maurice Antoni
Cécilia's father
Tom Ouedraogo
Maurice 'Momo' Mayard
Patrick Arrachequesne
Mirtha Caputi Medeiros
Meyers' concierge
Pierre Chevalier
university dean
Oury Milshtein
Anne-Sophie Morillon
Marc Chouppart
Cécile Reigher
Ferdinand's girlfriend
Antoine Beau
Serge Bozon
philosophy student
Nicole Pescheux
owner of disreputable bar
M'mah Maribe
girl in disreputable bar
Seljko Zivanovic
Nathalie Besançon
Gérard Arbeix
owner of Momo's café
Karim Grandi
Philippe Rebbot
waiters at Momo's café
Rosalie Coly
woman in telephone booth
Estelle Perron
voice of a prostitute
Karima Seddougui
Olga Zekova
Catherine Labbe
Aline Blondeau
Monique Le Mestre
Danielle Moro
Michelle Perrin
Sonia Mekoues
Alice Argentini
Marina de Luca
Catherine Chevalier
Catherine Contou
Bebita Bidounga
Artificial Eye Film Company
10,989 feet
122 minutes 6 seconds
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011