Picks and Pans Review: The Accompanist

updated 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Richard Bohringer, Elena Safonova, Romane Bohringer

It is 1942 in German-occupied Paris in this adaptation of Nina Berberova's novel, and Romane Bohringer is hired as accompanist to a celebrated soprano (Safonova). Glamorous and charismatic, Safonova is everything Bohringer is not. The singer's life is a marked contrast to what Bohringer has always experienced: privations in a tiny apartment shared with her piano teacher mother (Nelly Borgeaud). Safonova, impressed by Bohringer's talent and her willingness to give over her life to art (and to ironing), takes the girl under her wing and into her home. There Bohringer becomes privy lo the dubious business dealings of Safonova's husband (Richard Bohringer) and to Safonova's affair with a member of the French Resistance (Samuel Labarthe). She also becomes more and more resentful of Safonova's deed to the spotlight and her own long lease on the background.

Despite fine performances, a rich sense of atmosphere, a resplendent score and the excellent dubbing done for Safonova in the performance sequences, this movie, ultimately, is a bit of a bewilderment. Does it mean to be the tale of a masochist who's constitutionally incapable of living her own life and seizing happiness, able only lo be an observer? Is it supposed to be the story of a woman whose unexplained resentment of her mother holds her back? If Bohringer is so passive, how does she summon the courage to berate Safonova when the singer disparages Bohringer's young suitor—or summon the energy to follow Safonova to her trysts? If the intention of The Accompanist was to strike notes of ambiguity, it has richly succeeded. (PG)

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