Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. France/Italy/Spain/Greece/Russia, 2004. Rezo Productions, Compagnie Eric Rohmer, France 2 Cinema, BIM Distribuzione, Alta Produccion, Tornasol Film, Mentor Cinema, Eurimages, Cofimage 15, Canal+, CineCinema, Wild Bunch, Strada Productions. Screenplay by Eric Rohmer. Cinematography by Diane Baratier. Produced by Francois Etchegaray, Philippe Liegeois, Jean-Michel Rey. Production Design by Antoine Fontaine. Costume Design by Pierre-Jean Larroque. Film Editing by Mary Stephen.
Eric Rohmer investigates the true story of a man trying to remain apolitical in highly political times. Russian-born Fyodor lives in Paris with his Greek-born wife, retired from the Tsar’s army and now working for the Russian Military Union while, beyond their borders, Nazi power is brewing and the Spanish Civil War is raging. Arsinoe does not understand why her husband does not discuss his work with her, suspecting that he is possibly involved in espionage for his native country despite him insisting that he is a passive White and not a passionate Red like their upstairs neighbours. The results are devastating for both involved, but despite the sound of this plot, Triple Agent is not Rohmer suddenly becoming a genre filmmaker. The interactions between characters take the form of the long, drawn-out conversations that are typical of the French auteur and the result is something sly and smart: characters in spy thrillers are usually enshrouded in shadows and nefarious activity, making us wonder (in the case of true stories) how people around them couldn’t guess what they were really up to. Here the arguments and debates between characters, which include as many hotly expressed opinions as they do people placating friends and lovers in the moment, flow in the natural rhythm of socializing and make it possible to understand how enemy agents could pass undetected in real life. The drawback to this one, though, is that Rohmer’s applying his style to something more politically minded than his investigations of light romance between lovers in sunny locations also results in something as boring as it is intelligent. This is a great film to tell people you’ve seen but it’s impossible to sit through to begin with, operating as it does on a mostly intellectual level and rarely entering the realm of the sensual.