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Building bonds of friendship and a filmmaker's career

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Until now, critics have regarded Diane Kurys as a promising newcomer to the French filmmaking scene. With her new picture, Entre Nous, it's time that label was discarded. A strikingly mature work, it establishes the young director as a cineaste of uncommon skill and sensitivity.

The story begins during the 1940s, as France copes with the German occupation. One of the main characters (played by Isabelle Huppert) makes her way from a prison camp by marrying a good-hearted attendant. The other heroine (played by Miou Miou) toughs it out in Paris, only to have her husband murdered in her arms.

We shift to the 1950s, when most of the movie takes place. The war is over, and both women have survived - the one still married to her husband-by-accident, the other with a new spouse and a new kind of life.

They meet, become friends, get to know each other's families. As time passes, they rely on each other for support when faced with personal and marital problems. Slowly they forge a strong, affectionate relationship that's deeper and more stable, in some ways, than their home lives.

This friendship is the main current of the film, but not its only concern. Other characters play key roles in the story. And the director refuses to simplify or sentimentalize the role of friendship - even a sturdy, devoted one like this - in the lives of whole, complex people.

Thus, while mutual support helps the two women through times of calm and crisis alike, no emotional ill is magically cured by a neat dose of advice or admonition. In the end, the story isn't even resolved, at least not in the tidy Hollywood sense. Profound problems still exist, and everyone knows it, including the filmmaker. What's been established is that the women, and their relationship , can endure just about anything life throws at them. This isn't a cheery message, exactly, but it's a reassuring one. And coming at the conclusion of such a deeply felt drama, it has a stunning impact.

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