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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
French comedy takes Woody's lead
Terence Stamp and Charlotte Gainsbourg
John tries to seduce Yvan's wife Charlotte

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, Woody Allen will be the easiest man to find in New York right now.

He will be the one wandering around with his face a livid shade of embarrassed scarlet.

While director, writer and male lead Yvan Attal has described his film as a declaration of love for his real-life wife and female lead Charlotte Gainsbourg, the real focus of Attal's ardour appears to be Allen.

And Allen should be flattered - Attal's romantic comedy is a pretty good one.

Yvan and Charlotte
Yvan's jealousy tests the couple's relationship

Critically well received - and welcomed as the best French film for some time - it fulfils its promise, especially with Gainsbourg, currently the toast of France.

Forgive me if this sounds familiar, but the basic premise is Yvan, a quick-witted but jealous sports journalist, is married to Charlotte, a beautiful actress.

Yvan, who is Jewish, loves Charlotte, but is uncomfortable with the idea of her "pretending" to love, and make love to, other men.

A chance encounter with his sister's former beau makes Yvan's jealousy even worse.

The gauche ex-boyfriend asks Yvan what it is like to be married to somebody "who sleeps around" and "kisses with tongues".

Cue much Allen-esque angst from Yvan.

So far, so uncannily like umpteen Allen films. But it is to the credit of Attal and the rest of his cast that they manage to whip up something fresh and appetising from such a well-worn recipe.

Of course it helps when you have an ingredient such as Gainsbourg, the daughter of French boozer/crooner Serge Gainsbourg and English 1960s it-girl Jane Birkin, at your disposal.

Gainsbourg plays Ernie Wise to Attal's Eric Morecambe, but does it with far more je ne sais quoi than Ernie ever mustered.

She loves Yvan, but is understandably annoyed by his jealousy, not to mention his unwillingness to start a family.

My Wife is an Actress
A subplot involves Yvan's sister and brother-in-law
So when Charlotte goes to London to star in a new film with an ageing Lothario, played by Terence Stamp, she is understandably tempted to do exactly what Yvan has been accusing her of.

Stamp, for his part, does his theatrical best to persuade her that this would be a good idea.

I do not think I am giving too much away if I let you know that, after much to-ing and fro-ing on Eurostar, love conquers all, and Yvan and Charlotte end up much as we found them, in love, in Paris.

In the meantime, there is a subplot about whether Yvan's pregnant sister and brother-in-law will have their son circumcised. She says yes, he says no.

Whether this is in the film to add something weighty to Attal's fluffy tale, acting as a contrast to Charlotte and Yvan's petty problems or to just hammer home the Allen theme is anybody's guess.

Thankfully, this diversion does not distract much attention from what is a very entertaining and good-looking comedy.

I am now looking forward to Attal's declaration of love for other leading film-makers.

My Wife Is An Actress has a limited release in London on Friday and opens nationwide next week.

See also:

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