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Every Breath He Takes

The anti-'Amélie' camp would enjoy Audrey Tautou's stalker comedy/thriller 'He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not'

By Richard von Busack

Audrey Tautou's radiant, dippy smile and big brown eyes were used for maximum cuteness in Amélie, and America fell for it like a ton of bricks. The French (who Americans, even the smart ones, stupidly love to patronize) are not a congenitally cute people. But when they do cute, no one can outcute them, not even the Russians.

The devilishly crafty He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not is full of hearts and rosebuds and pretty girls on bicycles. It's set in the summery city of Bordeaux, which looks like the old Paris (complete with a bijou-sized triumphal arch). And--what utter drollery--it's the tale of an extramarital affair, between a cardiologist named Loic (Samuel Le Bihan) and a female art student.

Angel-like, or rather Angelique (played by the innocent little Tautou), is a waitress at a cafe, where her best friend is the solid, practical Heloise. She's played by the quite edible Sophie Guillemin, last seen as the "pea-brained cow" Prune in With a Friend Like Harry... . Here, sleeveless and bronzed, Guillemin has that Santa Monica look, always as if she'd just peeled herself off a beach blanket. Heloise encourages Angelique in her love affair but cautions her about the pain of being involved with a married man.

The pain is going to be all on his part. Since this comedy/thriller has spread to two screens at the Camera Cinemas in San Jose, it must have something to do with word of mouth. That same word of mouth might spoil the surprise witty second half. Tautou, previously the soul of innocent yearning love, turns out to be a bit--shall we say--fanciful.

If you were in the minority that found her Amélie macabre instead of sweet, Tautou's Angelique justifies that impression. Starring in this film was a grandly subversive choice for Tautou; she's gone directly from Paris's sweetheart to an adorable female hell hound, cracking a skull as if it were the skin on a crème brûlée. I found He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not deeply preferable to her previous hit, both in comedy and poignancy. Director Laetitia Colombani's changes of tone are perfect; the droll comedy thriller is a tribute to France's Hitchcock-loving film community; and the uproarious sick-comic punch line will be quotable for years. Oddly, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not seems like a perfect date movie--if the person you bring doesn't laugh, look out!

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (Unrated; 92 min.), directed by Laetitia Colombani, written by Colombani and Caroline Thivel, photographed by Pierre Aim and starring Audrey Tautou and Samuel Le Bihan, is now playing at Camera One and the Towne 3 in San Jose.

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Web extra to the March 13-19, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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