Unfaithful: Special Edition

Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Olivier Martinez, Erik Per Sullivan, Chad Lowe. Directed by Adrian Lyne. Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French, Spanish). 124 minutes. 2002. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 2005899. R. $27.98.

Adrian Lyne has made a name for himself with slick, sensually entertaining dramas such as 91/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, and Lolita. Unfaithful will doubtless enhance that reputation. It's a detailed study of an adulterous affair between a suburban American housewife, Connie (Diane Lane), and a virile young Frenchman, Paul (Olivier Martinez). With beautiful camera moves and meticulous attention paid to the nuances of seduction, the movie delineates how a responsible, rational person can allow herself to risk everything that matters in her life for the intensity of physical pleasure.

The film feels very European in its no-holds-barred approach to the couple's sexual encounters as they progress from the safety of the bedroom to the danger of public places. It's pretty effective when it comes to conveying Connie's transformation as her initial ecstasy—absent in her domestic life with her husband, Edward (Richard Gere)—gives way first to remorse at neglecting her duties as mother and wife, and then to anger.

Unfaithful works as a meditation on adultery, but it fails to fully explore the psycho-emotional universe that surrounds its heroine. Like the 1969 French thriller on which it's based, La Femme Infidele, directed by the great Claude Chabrol, Unfaithful unveils the rage that a quiet man is capable of when he discovers his wife's infidelity, and the ends to which that rage can lead. But it misses the depth—and the perverse sensibility—of Chabrol's film. The cat-and-mouse rapport between husband and wife in the original is played down here. Nor does Unfaithful convey as lucidly how the virtues of forgiveness and redemption can coexist with an immoral act.

Still, Unfaithful is solid entertainment. Lane shines in the unsympathetic role of a woman obsessed, while Gere has much less to do in his one-dimensional role. But it's a promising debut for Olivier Martinez in a mainstream Hollywood movie—a suspenseful melodrama in which style sometimes prevails over substance.

This "Special Edition" DVD sparkles. This dual-layer transfer is impeccable, with sharp images, subtle colors, and realistic skin tones. The focus is constant, and the 5.1-channel surround sound is rich and powerful. The extras include deleted scenes and interviews with the director and cast.—DY