CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMENNR
While by no means a perfect movie, Conversations With Other Women is nevertheless a near-perfect amalgamation of cinematic technique and content. In deciding to use a split-screen process to simultaneously show the actions, reactions, memories and fantasies of two lovers, director Hans Canosa infuses this film, his first full-length feature, with a startlingly unique and almost harrowing intimacy.
The story, such as it is, could easily have been told in the conventional screen format-but to far less effect. A man meets a woman (their character names are never revealed) at a wedding; she's a last-minute replacement bridesmaid, he's the brother of the bride. At first it seems that this Man (Aaron Eckhart) and this Woman (Helena Bonham Carter) are strangers, but their flirtatious meeting-for-the-first-time thrusts and parries are only a game. Because these two, we soon learn, were once married to each other. After their divorce nine years earlier, she fled to London and eventually married a stable, older man, a cardiologist; he hints at a series of unhappy relationships before he settled down with a much younger dancer. But this Man and this Woman have not forgotten each other-nor have they gotten over their need to recapture that first flush of romantic passion.
Plot, however, is incidental to Conversations With Other Women. What's paramount is the way this film conveys a sensation of intimacy-the intimacy between the two leading characters and the intimacy between viewer and film. It does take a while for us to get used to what's going on, for not only do we see the two characters relating to each other, caught simultaneously in different frames, at times we also see what they're thinking. One side of the screen will show, for example, the poignant memories of their younger selves (Erik Eidem and Nora Zehetner as remarkable look-alikes for Eckhart and Bonham Carter), or the fantasies of what they wish they were doing or saying at any given moment, rather than what they're actually doing or saying. The technique is most powerful in the lovemaking scenes, when the lovers can't tell if they're seeing themselves as they are or as they used to be.
Fortunately for director Canosa and screenwriter Gabrielle Zevin, the palpable chemistry between their two stars makes it all work. Both Eckhart and Bonham Carter have a gift for the spontaneous gesture, and both can switch from gaiety to gravitas in the blink of a single film frame. However, the one-night stand between the Man and the Woman they portray turns out to be a sad little affair. It was a memorable, perhaps unforgettable encounter; but in the end, for them and for us, it proves to be more than a bit unsettling and unsatisfying.