My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument Screen 10 articles

My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument

1996

My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument Poster
  • The hip urbanite relationship gabfest to end all hip urbanite relationship gabfests, [this] tour de force weaves together characters, social and personal anxieties, notes of stark drama, claustrophobic party scenes, and comic interludes with a deftness that, on some level, brings to mind another ambitious breakthrough that hit American theaters in 1997: Boogie Nights. The difference is that Desplechin’s creative energy is essentially neurotic, his characters tightly wound, his camera squirrelly.

  • It has to be the best movie title ever: My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument or, as it was reversed in the original French release, Comment je me suis disputé… (Ma vie sexuelle). But any way you parse it, the film to which the title belongs—Arnaud Desplechin’s second feature, released in 1996 and currently available only in a dark and wan DVD—is a delayed coming-of-age masterpiece and one of the great French post–New Wave films.

  • Like Truffaut, whom he acknowledges as monumental and inspirational, Desplechin makes films that look simple at first but (pace Kent Jones) take on a protean charge, eager to move into something new, to grab hold of a moment, if briefly, before rushing forward. My Sex Life... is nearly three hours long but it never flags; it pauses, it fades, but it never halts; it asks to be followed; and it's so goddamned endearing, so charming, that it would be foolish to resist.

  • The emphasis on words, sociability and the mind in the character of Paul is contrasted with the largely silent (at one point she loses her speech), solitary and bodily expressiveness of Esther’s depression sequence... The film’s key scene shows Paul giving Esther advice during one of their habitual arguments; his words overlap and multiply on the soundtrack, turning from carriers of meaning into almost spiritual torments.

  • ...It is this pensive insecurity and melancholic romanticism that inevitably makes Desplechin's films (and in particular, this one) so attractive and endearing: the realization of our own pathological need to believe that somehow, in that however brief moment of connection, we have indelibly touched the life of another - that object of desire or kindred spirit - and consequently disrupted the eternal order of things and irreparably altered the very structure of its soul.

  • The erotic forays and existential musings of a tribe of Parisian late-twentysomethings unfold compellingly under the inventive, hawk-eyed direction of Arnaud Desplechin, who also co-wrote the script. At the heart of a stunning ensemble cast is Mathieu Almaric as Paul Dedalus. Slightly built, fey-featured, Almaric is one of the more charming and mercurial antiheroes in recent movies.

  • Talky, charming and reasonably witty, My Sex Life, or How I Got into an Argument would have made an excellent 90-minute film, I think. Instead, for reasons beyond my comprehension, it makes a so-so three-hour film. No, that isn't a typo; imagine a three-hour Whit Stillman film, only featuring neurotic self-conscious French intellectuals instead of neurotic self-conscious American preppies, and you've got the general idea.

  • As an academic and a Francophile, I completely identified with the film’s often farcical and yet subtle relationships between young men and women on the same cultural level... What is fresh and original about the film is its profound respect for academic achievement despite the familiar absurdities of academic careerism.

  • Three hours long, Arnaud Desplechin's highly watchable French comedy drama (1996) about the sex lives of 30ish Parisian intellectuals and academics has been compared to everything from Jean Eustache's The Mother and the Whore to Reality Bites. For me, it's a lot better than the latter and not nearly as good as the former... The influences here, by the way, are not only cinematic (the aforementioned Eustache) but also literary; novelist Philip Roth is the most overt reference point.

  • What makes this intimate epic so fascinating is the depth of characterisation - it's beautifully acted - and the way both script and direction use small details to offer telling insights into the lives, emotions and aspirations of the group. Loneliness is economically but expertly evoked with a cup of coffee and Ravel on the soundtrack; a bizarre but highly original scene featuring a monkey, a radiator and an arrogant academic brilliantly blends black humour and psychological unease.

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