American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Jeanne Moreau's “Lumiere” is a movie that sneaks up on us, that insinuates itself after we're beginning to have our doubts. It begins with too many fancy visual touches -- with a long, long tracking shot that looks in too many windows, for example -- and we're afraid that Miss Moreau is trying too hard in her directorial debut. But then, as the strands of her story become clear and we begin to know the characters, the movie grows into a simple and strong emotional statement.
It's about a week or so in the lives of four actresses, and the men in their lives. It takes place in a world that will look artificial and affected to a lot of people but it's a real world, all right: the world of film and theater, of heightened emotions and insecurity and loneliness pretending to be promiscuity.
All four of the actresses are at critical moments in their romantic lives; Miss Moreau's character, for example, is breaking up with a longtime lover, becoming fascinated with a fatuous young German writer, and depending for human contact on an old friendship with a scientist she met by accident. The other actresses are as busy, moving distractedly from quarrels to despair to sudden loves and liaisons.
What the women have in common is their friendship, and even that doesn't go very deeply except in the case of Sarah (Moreau) and Laura (Lucia Bose), who have known each other for so long that trust can be depended on. The reason they understand each other so deeply, we sense, is that they've been through so many of the same things -- and, especially, through all the many ways men have used them, or attempted to. “Lumiere” isn't a feminist film, but a woman's film: That's to say it doesn't take a position on the treatment of its women so much as simply reveal the nature of their lives.