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Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (5 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/14/2007, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema
French with English subtitles
WATCHING ANOTHER Woman, and thinking back to Thelma from the 2003 Reel Affirmations festival, one could reasonably wonder whether France is making a 21st century cinematic name for itself with movies about transgender women set in Switzerland.
Though produced a year earlier than Thelma, the made-for-TV Another Woman returns us to Switzerland, where we meet Léa (Nathalie Mann) in a tale ”liberally based on a true story,” which is both gripping an masterfully delivered with just enough drama to keep audiences thoroughly engaged, but not so much as to be bombastic.
Director Jérôme Foulon opens the film beautifully with a body of unknown gender in a shower, following rivulets along plains of flesh, around curves. It’s a loving tribute to this asexual collection of cells that come together to equal a human body. Only after rising to the breasts can we be certain that we’re watching a woman. But are we?
Foulon continues the theme of ambiguity as long as Léa remains in Geneva. The landscape remains gray, continuously reinforcing a theme that the world is not as black and white, and male and female, as binary as our culture tells us it is. The gray dissipates nearer the end of the Another Woman, as Léa finds herself back in Paris, where she last lived a decade earlier, unable to resist the compulsion to reconnect with her children. The sunny clarity comes as characters realize the absolute importance of humanity and acceptance and kindness, versus the less reliable ”certainties” of body parts.
Another elegant touch, we can only hope was intentional, is multiple scenes including spiral staircases, reminding us of the DNA strands that instruct our bodies just how to construct themselves, for better or for worse. Certainly intentional is the script’s use of ”monsters,” which both captivate Lea’s young son’s imagination and offer a metaphor for transphobic cruelty.
Beyond this tale of homecoming are the layers of complication that can accompany a transgender person’s transition, particularly in border-laced, bureaucratic Europe. Watching Léa’s journey from respected male doctor to transsexual detainee with a forged passport is enraging.
Adding to Another Woman‘s strengths, the supporting cast deliver as well Mann, particularly Micky Sébastian as Anne, Léa’s once upon a time wife, and Lizzie Brocheré as daughter Emma. — WOB