Director: John Frankenheimer
Screenplay: Eric Kahane and Nicholas Mosley
Starring: Alan Bates, Dominique Sanda, Michel Auclair, Evans Evans, Paul Crauchet, Lea Massari, Sean Bury
Country: France / Italy
Running time: 113 min
Year: 1973
BBFC Certificate: 15

Impossible Object, in its original French version, and as the retitled and shortened international cut Story of a Love Story, is a strange and obscure beast in the filmography of John Frankenheimer. It didn’t receive a theatrical run in the US or UK, wasn’t widely distributed internationally, hadn’t had a UK home video release and hasn’t been on British TV since the 1980s. It has ultimately been amongst the most difficult of the director’s films to see. That’s all set to change thanks to a wonderful new Blu-ray edition on the Indicator label.

The film is based on the novel Impossible Object by Nicholas Mosley, who has a dual screenwriting credit with Eric Kahane on the original version (and is the sole credited writer on the international cut). The novel features multiple seemingly separate stories, with different characters and locations, but which are interconnected due to themes, moments or dialogue.

The movie version streamlines this and focuses on a small band of characters, headlined by lovers Harry (Alan Bates) and Natalie (Dominique Sanda). It opens on a sequence in a museum introducing us to the two headline characters, who notice each other amongst the sculptures and works of art. We then see Harry, his wife (Evans Evans) and their children whom we spend time with at a birthday party for the youngest son; and are introduced to Natalie and her husband (Michel Auclair). What then unfolds is the separate lives of Harry and Natalie, interspersed with moments together, and flashes of other scenes, before a final act brings them together and shows their lives together.

Impossible Object is told in non-linear fashion. It feels as though much of the film, certainly the affairs that Harry has (there’s another one that is certainly a fantasy sequence set during a fantastical Greek inspired party), could be in his imagination. But then there are several scenes, particularly early on, when Natalie also seemingly thinks about Harry. It’s such a puzzle box of a movie that it’s open to multiple interpretations. Did Harry and Natalie meet? What is fact and what is fiction? Is any of it true? We seemingly see moments from Harry’s viewpoint – either real or fantasy – and the same can be said for Natalie, particularly in an early scene of her with her husband and in the final act, which she narrates. Perhaps Harry wrote a novel about an affair, including Natalie’s point of view, or perhaps it all happened? Harry certainly seems to have trouble determining between real life, memory and fantasy. Each viewer is likely to have their own take and response to the story.

Bates and Sanda are both excellent in their respective roles – but so is the rest of the cast. Much of the dialogue is French, and Bates and Evans, as two of the English-speaking stars in the film, dubbed themselves. They both deliver their lines well, whether English language or French.

The cinematography is gorgeous throughout – particularly the scenes in Morocco, with beautiful vistas involving beaches and the sea – but director of photography Claude Renoir, who also lensed the 1963 epic Cleopatra, Barbarella and the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, amongst others, gets the best out of all of the locations and sets. It’s a truly sumptuous looking film. The score by composer Michel Legrand is also memorable.

There are some flourishes of horror on occasion; a murder, foreshadowing of the final act and other unsettling moments punctuating the narrative, and that aforementioned party sequence descends into fantasy in the bedroom.

The Indicator release also include Story of a Love Story, the international cut which is 10 minutes shorter and omits, truncates or reorders scenes from the longer cut. Watching both versions is rewarding and gives different perspectives, though I preferred the original cut.

Impossible Object demands your attention; it’s not an easy watch due to its non-linear storytelling and likely unreliable narrators. It’s a film that deserves to be much better known and not the obscurity in Frankenheimer’s career that it’s become. It’s a puzzle box of a film that grips, entertains and rewards. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Impossible Object is released on 29 January 2024 by Powerhouse Films on their Indicator label. The new 4K restoration looks outstanding throughout, particularly the Moroccan scenes. The original mono audio also sounds great too, no issues here.


New 4K restoration

Two presentations of the film: Impossible Object, the original French theatrical cut (113 mins); and Story of a Love Story, the alternative international cut (104 mins)

Original mono audio

Audio commentary with film expert Tim Lucas (2024)

Interview with John Frankenheimer (1973, 5 mins): extract from the French television programme Le Cinéma à…, featuring the director discussing the film before and after an early public screening

These Obscure Subjects of Desire: Objectified Women in the Lost Films of Frankenheimer and Lumet (2024, 13 mins): filmmaker and film historian Daniel Kremer examines the thematic and historical interconnections between Impossible Object and Sidney Lumet’s 1969 feature The Appointment

Stories of a Love Story (2024, 10 mins): video comparison analysing the differences between the two versions of the film

Image gallery: publicity and promotional material

Story of a Love Story script gallery: surviving pages of the dialogue continuity records

Newly translated English subtitles for all French dialogue

New English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Limited edition exclusive 44-page booklet with a new essay by Adam Scovell, a new appreciation by experimental artist and record producer Russell Haswell, a look at the work of Nicholas Mosley and the themes of the source novel, excerpts from John Frankenheimer interviews, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

World premiere on Blu-ray

Limited edition of 4,000 copies for the UK and US

The audio commentary by novelist and critic Tim Lucas runs over the longer cut. It’s an outstanding commentary rich with background details and analysis of the film, and the differences of the two versions, including how the international cut loses the symmetrical feel of the original version. He also eloquently champions the French cut as being Natalie’s film and the English language being Harry’s film. Lucas provides details about the novel and its author, the autobiographical elements Frankenheimer brought to the production (these alone are well worth a listen), and some of the other actors and the place of the film in their filmographies. 

The four-minute interview with Frankenheimer is from a 1973 French TV programme and is in black and white. It features some comments from audience members who have just seen the film, with Frankenheimer replying with very brief comments. A nice addition.

The Obscure Objects of Desire is a 13-minute visual essay by Daniel Kramer.  It compares Frankenheimer’s film with Sidney Lumet’s The Appointment. It looks at the changes to the films and the drivers of both filmmakers for their respective films. It looks at Jospeh Losey’s preparation work for Impossible Object, and the context to Frankenheimer making the film. There’s a lot of background and analysis packed into the brief runtime. It’s another essential extra on a wonderful disc.

Stories of a Love Story is an excellent ten-minute comparison of the two versions of the film, written by Michael Brooke. This focuses on how the differences are more than just the running time, Impossible Object being about ten minutes longer than the international release. For instance, in Story of a Love Story, Harry is established as a writer from the beginning, and a potential unreliable narrator from the outset. It outlines the scenes that have been moved around or truncated between both versions. This fascinating piece also looks at the use of French and English dialogue in both, highlighting how Alan Bates and Evans Evans both spoke French and dubbed themselves in the French version. 

The galleries start with more than 70 promotional images, some black and white and some colour, and several posters. The bulk of this section is the press book. Also included is a Story of Love Story script gallery, the dialogue continuity script for the first almost 40 minutes of the film. This section contains around 40 images.

The booklet is another gold standard edition featuring wonderful new appreciations by Adam Scovell and Russell Haswell, plus an informative look at author Mosley and excerpts from an excellent interview with Frankenheimer. It also features a few critical appraisals, though these were few and far between due to the the lack of theatrical releases in the UK and US. Another brilliant booklet from Indicator.

January 2024 is a month in which more obscure titles from famed directors or featuring famed actors have been released – from John Krish’s The Man Who Had Power Over Women and Jamil Dehlavi’s Jinnah starring Christopher Lee, to Impossible Object. Each have been given excellent editions and an opportunity to reappraise and see these lesser known films. Impossible Object is released on an incredibly well curated disc that features some expertly produced and insightful extras. The film has become an obscurity but deserves to be more widely known, and this first class Indicator release should help to raise its profile and give many more people an opportunity to uncover its treasures.


Impossible Object – Indicator
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Passionate about film, from the silents to the present day and everything in between, particularly 80s blockbusters, cult movies and Asian cinema.

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