french films > Smoking/No Smoking

Smoking/No Smoking

Smoking/No Smoking

Smoking/No Smoking

Review score: * * * * *

cast: Sabine Azéma, Pierre Arditi, Peter Hudson

year: 1993

colour: yes

certificate: PG

director: Alain Resnais

runtime: 298

Adapted from two plays by Alan Ayckbourn, this diptych revolves around Yorkshire schoolmaster Toby Teasdale and his wife, their friends, relations and the people who work for them. All parts are played by Azéma and Arditi, with Smoking differing from No Smoking according to whether or not Azéma has a calming cigarette (Player's, naturally). But from those two starting points, the story develops an enormous number of further variations, each signalled by the onscreen title 'Or else', as the action moves forward five days or five years. Watching the films in sequence reveals slight changes in style (continuous takes in the first, more traditional découpage in the second) and the shifts in tone from Smoking, where the performances quickly move outwards from comedy and drama into farce and melodrama, to No Smoking, with its much darker set of variations, including a couple of deaths. What the French call a divertissement, albeit a very long one.


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