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Frederick Wiseman’s


12:50    2:30   4:15   8:00 

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All 4:15 shows through November 24 and 8:00 shows through December 1 will be followed by a Q&A with Wiseman, moderated by Vox Film Critic Alissa Wilkinson, recorded especially for our run. 

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy’s famed opening to Anna Karenina easily applies to the early years of his deliriously passionate marriage to a woman 16 years his junior, as well as to their final years, marked by violent arguments, guilt, and recriminations. Prolific documentary maestro Frederick Wiseman (46 feature-length films since 1967) has fashioned a moving, empathetic monologue based on the diaries of Sophia Tolstoy, with whom the great writer had 13 children and who, as his amanuensis, copied his masterpiece, War and Peace, seven times. Filmed amid gorgeous, idyllic settings befitting a Russian countess, French actress Nathalie Boutefeu portrays Sophia as a determined, loving, angry woman who recognizes the limitations of long-term marriage to a man of world-renown. In the words of Olivia Harrison (wife of George Harrison): “The secret to long-term marriage? You don’t get divorced.”

With support from the Ada Katz Fund for Literature in Film and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Fund.



“A powerful, passionate one-woman show. Here, in fiction, Wiseman probes the overlapping realms of literary history and private mores and finds them jointly fuelled by patriarchal authority. Wiseman restores the single voice of a single historical character and, in the process, renders her symbolic, emblematic, iconic.”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

Critic’s Pick. “Devastating and essential. Sculpts the raw material of the diaries into an arc that works to peel back the emotional layers of the marriage… Long timelines are elegantly compressed… Decades of disillusionment come to the fore in dense poetic language. Wiseman holds them amidst naturalistic footage of the garden, like foie gras on a bed of lettuce…
A COUPLE is Wiseman working to bottle a human soul.”

– Sophie Monks Kaufman, IndieWire

“Nathalie Boutefou is superb as Sophia, the author’s wife, assistant and rival, in a shrewd character study. It’s a belletristic homage to the most famously unhappy marriage in literary history; an intimate, pared-down chamber piece. The indefinite article in the title is misleading. This is the couple: a legendary relationship. It is a thoroughly intelligent production. A valuable and insightful portrait.”
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“An expressive and moving portrait of a tempestuous marriage, one told with elan that feels rich in feeling…Boutefeu’s performance is intense, galvanic…Wiseman and DP John Davey give the macro lenses a workout with abundant close-ups of blossoms, including lushly speckled rhododendrons, tumbling cascades of fleabane, gaudy gorse in such profusion you can practically smell it wafting off the screen.”
– Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

“This gorgeous and stirring picture is a late-career curveball from Wiseman. A remarkably concentrated work. Elegant, graceful, purposefully bristling.”
 – Glenn Kenny,

“A COUPLE is a study of a woman’s face, and Boutefeu’s has an outstanding capacity to channel immense grief as well as fierce resilience.”
– Leonardo Goi, Mubi Notebook

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