<Movie Details
19 November 2008 by Tim Evans

When we last met courtesan Severine she was frantically speculating whether family friend - and behind-closed doors client - Henri Husson had told her dying husband what she got up to behind his back.

For more than three decades she has been left to suffer, none the wiser about what the cruel Husson whispered to her beloved hubbie - a mute paraplegic surgeon - while on his deathbed.

Director Manoel de Oliveira takes this as the hinge on which hangs his imagined story about what would happen if the two of them happened to meet almost forty years down the line.

Henri (reprised by original actor Michel Piccoli) is now a silver-haired bon viveur who also happens to be saddled with a formidable whisky problem.

Severine (a blonde-wigged Bulle Ogier replaces Catherine Deneuve) appears to live the life of an aristocratic drifter, cruising from one five-star hotel to another in the air-conditioned comfort of her black limousine.

However, Husson spots her at a concert and - after a near farcical bid to track her down - persuades her to have dinner with him so he can reveal the outcome of that fateful night so long ago.

The dread word "homage" should set the alam bells ringing and - sure enough - this pans out as little more than the mischievous indulgence of a director now pushing one hundred years of age.

Pointless and just a little bit silly, it lumbers from one unlikely scenario to another while also managing to shoehorn in a couple of blousy strumpets who look like they've wandered in from an adult panto.

For every potential point of interest - a candid rumination on the fading of sexual desire - there's some interminable scene featuring Sev and Hazza wordlessly tucking into a plate of scran.

It turns out that while he is obsessed with harking back to their previous indiscretions she has - as the modern idiom has it - moved on and wants to go a live in a convent.

You can't blame her.