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"Conversations with other women"

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If you were to happen upon this experimental melodrama without any warning, you might think something had happened to the disc. Starring Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter, "Conversations" tries to relate a brief encounter between old acquaintances with the benefit of a split screen, the technique most popularly used for video games. The movie has its ups and downs as an engaging tale of love and lust, but it never shows how its stereo vision improves mono.

The unnamed protagonists meet at a wedding. It's the wedding of the guy's (Eckhart) sister, who was best friends with the girl (Carter) when the two were younger. At first, we're given the impression that these people have just met, a joke they alternately play on each other and other guests. But soon all pretensions come off, along with both sets of clothes, so that the two may relive their romping 20-something years for one night.

More interesting than the split screen are the jumps in time. Other lesser-known actors are used for flashback glimpses into their past, while the film briefs us on the present with dialogue only. This amounts to a lot of droning on. Carter and Eckhart are up to it, but neither gives much evidence of buying into the concept any more than we do.

As a result, I was split by "Conversations." On the one side, the story of two people reconnecting after many years is very appealing, and here those lives are offered, dramatically at least, in a realistic, plainspoken way. On the other, it's difficult to immerse yourself in the yearning of two ordinary folks when you're constantly being reminded how unusual their time capsule is. "Conversations" is another warning from the indie-realms of Hollywood that reinvention of technique hardly ever succeeds like the competent application of it. (R) **S

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