The Woman Next Door ★★★½

Truffaut's horror film. The penultimate work from the French auteur is his bleakest and most sombre project yet, leading it to be understandably divisive among audiences, as is evident from the reviews here.

Opening with an immediate fourth wall break, we are introduced to a female narrator who asks for the camera to be pulled back to reveal that she is crippled, a character that we will learn about later and serves as an important antecedent of the themes explored in this fraught melodrama. After this it becomes a more conventional film once more, Truffaut's style in these later years has matured significantly, the influence of Hitchcock very evident in this particular work, the staging and the tense atmosphere of uncertainty giving it the feel of a domestic thriller.

Gérard Depardieu returns, having just starred in The Last Metro, this time paired with a fragile Fanny Ardant, the two playing former lovers who end up neighbours by sheer coincidence, an unfortunate development that begins to tear their content family lives apart. Love in this instance is little more than a sickness, a terminal cancer that grows and spreads before the inevitable occurs. The two may be changed people prior to meeting again but the past soon brings back all the obsession, the jealousy and guilt that has been repressed for eight years, the two seem more in love with the past and the idea of love itself than with one another.

I found this fascinating, the performances sublime across the board and the filmmaking just as subversive as Truffaut's previous endeavours. Romantic partners in movies are often played up to be unlikeable or unrealistically extreme in some aspect but here everyone is genial and likeable, playing believable people with everyday jobs. As someone not to keen on whimsy, this director's most serious films like The Soft Skin and Two English Girls are often the most appealing to me, this particular low budget chamber-piece may be simplistic but beneath the surface there's so much going on.