My Wife is an Actress -- ***1/2 (out of 5)   (2001)

Cast: Yvan Attal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Terence Stamp, Noemie Lvovsky, Laurent Bateau

Directed By Yvan Attal

Yvan Attal takes a page from the Woody Allen book of filmmaking by writing, directing, and starring in a film with his significant other, creating a film based on actual events in his life, while it is a complete work of fiction just the same.  It's a formula that works, because, as they say, one should write about what they know.  Since Attal knows his subject, he is able to make it seem authentic, and provide the little touches one might overlook if he were to hand this script to another director.  MY WIFE IS AN ACTRESS is a romantic comedy with an undercurrent of seriousness, and while there's nothing surprising in the film's plot development, it's the personal touches that makes this a cut above the norm in a normally trite genre.

Yvan even makes the names the same, casting himself as Yvan, a sports reporter who marries one of the Europe's most famous actresses, Charlotte.  While the two undoubtedly love each other, Yvan is somewhat bothered by Charlotte's fame, and especially is disturbed by the love scenes she is asked to do with other men in her films.  Yvan wonders if the attraction she feels is just a role, or if she really is kissing the other men with emotion, and becomes very jealous.  Yvan confronts Charlotte about her feelings, which also begins to trouble her, making her wonder about things she never had wondered about before regarding her work.

Although clearly both a comedy and a drama, it's the dramatic parts that seem to work better in the film, although ironically, this kind of material lends itself better to comedy.  However, assuming the objections are real, and it really does trouble the spouses of actors to see them engaged in romance with someone else, it's a refreshing new insight on something we don't normally get to see.  Both Yvan and Charlotte are perfect in their roles, as they should be given that Attal wrote the script with them in mind.  The film is in both French and English, taking place not only in Paris but in London, where Charlotte is making a film with an actor played by Terence Stamp.

In another irony, Yvan Attal writes the screenplay so that Charlotte will not only be kissing another man, but also appears nude from time to time, the two things he most objects to in the film, so one gets the feeling that perhaps Attal is able to have overcome his worries in the end. 

MY WIFE IS AN ACTRESS is a good debut for Attal as a writer/director, and one hopes he will be inspired to make more films like this.  Now that Woody isn't quite making the romantic comedies that he used to, it's nice to see that others are willing to fill the void, and do them almost as well.


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