Veteran director Claude Sautet won the 1992 Cesar (the French equivalent of an Academy Award) for directing A HEART IN WINTER, a subtle, elegant study of an awkward romantic triangle. In the film, Stephane builds and repairs violins for the most respected musicians in Europe. He is reserved, workmanlike, brilliant, and congenial. His partner, Maxime, is a more expansive, charming, but honest wheeler-dealer who brings in good business and avidly appreciates beautiful music. The smooth equilibrium between the two men comes to a grinding halt when Maxime, a married man with a family, announces that he is in love with Camille, a beautiful student violinist, who, as the story unfolds, really loves Stephane, but her love for him is never requited. The rest of the story turns on the increasingly awkward relationships between these three individuals. By the film’s end, all is still ambiguous, with nothing resolved.
A HEART IN WINTER is very intelligent filmmaking, and it is as restrained in its language and sexual content as its civilized characters. It will generate some interesting coffee-shop conversations (since not everyone comes away with the same conclusions about the ultimate meaning of what occurs). However, it has little to offer in the way of role-modeling, or even as a cautionary tale, and ultimately, it paints an emotional canvas as barren as its title implies.
(H, L, S) 9 obscenities; sexual immorality implied; one character killed by euthanasia; and, a subtle & engrossing study of a romantic triangle, though lacking a moral compass.