A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
What a delicate dance they perform in “Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud.” It is a matter of great erotic fascination when two people are intrigued by the notion of becoming lovers, but are held back by the fear of rejection and the fear of involvement. Signals are transmitted that would require a cryptographer to decode. The difficulty is to send a message that can be read one way if the answer is yes, and the other way if the answer is no.
Nelly (Emmanuelle Beart) is young and beautiful, and poor, and married to an unemployed slug who is stuck in front of the television set all day.
Monsieur Arnaud (Michel Serrault) is old and rich, and married to a woman who has been living in Switzerland for years with another man. One day Nelly meets her older friend Jacqueline in a cafe, and they are joined by Arnaud, who was once Jacqueline's lover.
Arnaud makes it clear he remembers meeting Nelly before: “Two years ago your hair was shorter, and lighter.” When Jacqueline leaves the table for a moment, he asks her personal questions, discovers she is in debt, and offers her money. She turns it down. “It was an honest offer,” he says. “I hope so,” she says. They part, but a connection has been made. Arnaud has declared his interest, and Nelly has started to think. She tells her husband that Arnaud offered the money, and she accepted it. She is testing him. He fails. She explains that she is leaving him. “You understand?” He nods. He does.