Directed by Pascal Bonitzer, starring Daniel Auteuil, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ludivine Sagnier, Emmanuelle Devos, Jean Yanne and Hans Zischler.
Daniel Auteuil plays Bruno, a married journalist living in Paris, who is summoned to help his ageing uncle (Yanne), a Communist mayor in danger of not being re-elected. Bruno's wife has just left him and he takes with him on the trip to Grenoble his current mistress (Sagnier), a blonde for whom he has no respect - actually, he doesn't even like her. His uncle Gerard is suicidal, at one point holding a gun to his head and claiming, "I'm not going to rot in opposition." To add to his woes, Gerard suspects his wife is having an affair with her doctor, Verekher (Zischler), and gives Bruno a letter to deliver - believing that the look on his adversary's face when he reads it will confirm his suspicions.
Upon arriving at the home of the unlikeable Verekher, Bruno meets Beatrice (Scott Thomas), a disenchanted soul who is trapped with her odious step-family so that she doesn't get left out of an inheritance loop. She implores Bruno to kill her sickly husband – a twist of the knob on his breathing gas canister would do the trick - so that she can walk free. There is little else in the way of a plot in director Pascal Bonitzer's wry look at an accidental, serial womaniser.
British actress (and fluent French speaker) Scott Thomas is spot-on as the sexually uptight and somewhat unhinged Beatrice for whom the feckless Bruno may actually feel real love. One moment she flings herself into his arms, the next, she jumps at his touch. Her world is a lonely and destructive place. "I'm no good at anything," she mutters, wistfully.
It is no bad reflection on Auteuil as an actor that his character has no redeeming features. Everyone knows someone like the hapless, shallow, thoughtless Bruno – a person who stumbles their way through life, unaware of the effect their immature and self-absorbed actions have on those around them. In fact, Auteuil hasn't even very many lines in 'Petites Coupures'. Bruno's deer-stuck-in-headlights expression seems to be all that's required, as the many women in his life scream at him and slap his face.
It's a beautiful film, visually. The city of Grenoble is nestled in a pretty valley, with a backdrop of snowy mountains. And Bonitzer's imagery – a ring that passes to each of Bruno's conquests, a gun put in safekeeping that comes back to haunt him – adds a clever resonance to proceedings.
'Petites Coupures' is too inconsequential to be brilliant. By the end, the viewer becomes too frustrated with the central character to care what happens to him. However, it is nicely observed and quietly amusing.