China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in New York

How­dowe pic­ture the pri­vate lives of An­gelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt? If they were to, say, wind along theMediter­ranean coast in a top­down con­vert­ible with Serge Gains­bourg lilt­ing on the ra­dio, would that do the trick?

In the open­ing of By the Sea, writ­ten and di­rected by Jolie Pitt, they are the pic­ture of glam­our we would ex­pect from the stars, play­ing a mar­ried couple who breeze into a re­mote sea­side cove in the South of France. The spell, how­ever, is bro­ken when they reach the wa­ter.

“I smell fish,” says Jolie Pitt’s Vanessa, step­ping out of the car.

The 1970s sea­side set­ting could hardly be more en­chant­ing, but some­thing is rot­ten on the French Rivera. Mar­ried 14 years and child­less, Vanessa, a for­mer dancer, and Roland, a strug­gling writer, ar­rive — not with the jaunty light­ness of the open­ing— but as if seek­ing a shore on which to hurl their on-the­rocks mar­riage.

Af­ter check­ing into their ho­tel suite, they im­me­di­ately, word­lessly be­gin re­ar­rang­ing the fur­ni­ture and plac­ing the desk by the win­dow. They’re like ac­tors set­ting a scene; the feel­ing of ar­ti­fice never leaves By the Sea, which tran­spires al­most en­tirely within the suite’s walls in a stylish, de­tached kind of melo­dra­matic malaise.

They quickly set­tle into a strange rou­tine: Roland spends his days drink­ing with the lo­cal bar­tender (the ex­cel­lent Niels Are­strup) and fail­ing to write, while Vanessa mopes around the ho­tel room. They speak lit­tle, in fraught ex­changes that re­fer only vaguely to the prior trauma that hangs over them.

They are in, as Roland says, a “sec­ond-stage life”, long past the fresh ex­cite­ment of their early years to­gether and no longer the cel­e­brated tal­ents they once were. Lack­ing sure foot­ing, they look en­vi­ously around them— par­tic­u­larly at the hon­ey­moon­ing couple (Me­lanie Lau­rent, Melvil Poupaud) next door.

The two cou­ples timidly be­friend each other.

Vanessa’s in­ter­est, though, is piqued through a hole in the wall that lets her spy into their room. She’s

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