In Brief

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The New York Sun

R, 84 minutes

Hans Canosa’s chamber piece about two wedding guests with a romantic past flaunts the use of split screen, flashbacks, reveries, and shifting camera angles that could drive one cockeyed. Behind all the visual trickery lies a remarkably theatrical work, featuring stage-bound direction and a three-act arc with a flat-footed landing. The elemental, brute-force method yields a few moments of startling interplay between memory and desire, but only a few.

“Conversations” starts out as seductively as the sexy flirtation between the unnamed Man (Aaron Eckhart) and Woman (Helena Bonham Carter) in the empty hotel banquet room. The camera’s simultaneous separate perspective on each attractive actor, often close-up, throws off immediate voyeuristic sparks. The director’s playfulness and the actors’ charm mesh appealingly.

But when their sly mutual appreciation is consummated, it becomes apparent that we’re supposed to care about the characters and not just feel a pheromone contact high. The split-screen now communicates unbridgeable distances and the parallax view of missed opportunities. Yet Mr. Eckhart and Ms. Carter, though charming, are stuck with solipsistic, selfdeprecating dialogue that is often witty, but doesn’t allow for much investment on the viewers’ part.

Mr. Eckhart may also be running his course of slick, likable cads. His lantern jaw, high-tone finish, and insouciant confidence once seemed edgy, suggesting an amoral creature come to life golem-like from a home loan commercial, but the routine is getting wearisome. Ms. Carter totes around her own history of saturnine heroines, but instead breaks out refreshing flair.

I won’t begrudge the early climax of “Conversations”: melancholy turns frighteningly morbid in the cross-cut sex scenes that merge the present moment with the pair’s first meeting 10 years ago. But even if the movie ultimately has more modest ambitions than Wong Kar Wai’s “2046” or Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” it could still learn from their seamless presentation.

The New York Sun

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