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[whitespace] 'Wife Is an Actress'
Friend of the Family Terence Stamp can't seem to work up any chemistry with Charlotte Gainsbourg in 'My Wife Is an Actress.'

Romance Bites

Jealous French hubby can't bear the fact that his beautiful 'Wife Is an Actress'

By Richard von Busack

FEW PEOPLE know all of that famous phrase in Othello: "Beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on." The self-mocking My Wife Is an Actress is directed by and stars Yvan Attal, the real-life husband of actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, who co-stars as herself. It's a weak comedy about a husband feeding himself to the monster, bite by bite.

Attal's film starts breezy and light, leavened with appealing domestic scenes of the husband and wife together in their native Paris. Then My Wife Is an Actress turns aggravating as this jealous husband begins to act more erratic over his wife's current film, which is shooting in London. He takes plenty of trips on the cross-Channel train to keep an eye on her, even walking onto her set in the middle of a nude scene. My Wife Is an Actress's dubious quality as an insider look at moviemaking can be seen in the way the film-within-a-film's director (Keith Allen) attempts to persuade Charlotte to do the scene. He's so lecherous he can barely keep his tongue in his mouth. This director would have trouble talking a stripper out of her clothes.

Parts of the film are comic, in the old farcical style of a jealous husband getting what's coming to him. Unfortunately, Attal pads the film with a subplot about Yvan's sister (Noémie Lvovsky), who's trying to decide whether or not to get her unborn child circumcised; the matter is the source for much--and I do mean much--dithering.

The first sight of Terence Stamp as John, Charlotte's new leading man, promises some fun. Stamp has saved more bad movies than popcorn, but he hardly has a chance to display his vintage caddishness here. He's a little too aged to be a serious threat; he's more like an old friend of the family. Moreover, the movie in which Charlotte and John are co-starring is some drivel about a stewardess in love with a pilot. It's a mark of the essential disposability of My Wife Is an Actress that Attal doesn't use this film-within-a-film as a mirror for the self-inflicted marital problems he's going through.

All sympathies go to Gainsbourg here. She's known here mostly for her good performance as the brother-loving sister in The Cement Garden and as Jane Eyre in Zeffirelli's poky adaptation of the classic. In France, however, she's cultural royalty, famous for being the daughter of actress Jane Birkin and director/singer Serge Gainsbourg. Nude scene be damned, what does Attal think of that Serge/Charlotte scandalous hit record "Lemon Incest"? Gainsbourg's energy keeps the film going. You hope she's that gracious and sweet in real life. And as for that husband, you wish the opposite: if this film reflects him in any way, he's a crybaby, a figure to make Woody Allen look like a model of manly reticence. Attal wears out his welcome fast, and the movie seems not mordant but snappish; it's an ego trip.

My Wife Is an Actress (R; 93 min.), directed and written by Yvan Attal, photographed by Rémy Chevrin and starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Terence Stamp and Attal, opens Friday at Camera 3 in San Jose.

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From the July 18-24, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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