Not Amelie

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Angelique, a pretty painting student (Audrey Tautou), is deliriously in love with Loic, a handsome, if married, cardiologist (Samuel Le Bihan). Flowers are presented, endearments murmured, trysts arranged. It does not matter to Angelique when romantic joy turns to anguish. She will stand by her man. It does matter that the tense, well-wrought story we have been watching is a total fantasy. It exists only in the love-addled imagination of its heroine.

Mid-film, director (and co-writer) Laetitia Colombani's He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not...gets real. It retells the story objectively, with Angelique as a stalker, harassing a man she scarcely knows. One might think a twice-told tale would be boring. It's not. It's the basis for an intricately ironic, darkly witty movie with a twist ending that is both utterly surprising and utterly right.

In part the film works so well because Colombani, 27, whose first feature this is, is a terrifically assured filmmaker. Partly it's because Tautou, who won many a heart as too-good-to-be-true Amelie two years ago, here displays a more dangerous kind of innocence with a charm that shades off into obsessive madness in very gentle, persuasive increments. Mostly, it's because this French film brings a cool, almost Pascalian logic to the messy topic of erotomania. Many of us have probably built agreeable little romantic fantasies out of some playful, innocent exchange with the opposite sex. Out of just such a commonplace, Colombani has created uncommonly arrest-ing entertainment.