A Couch in New York

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A Couch in New York
Movie Poster, © 1996 UGC
Directed byChantal Akerman
Produced byRégine Konckier
Jean-Luc Ormières
Written byChantal Akerman
Jean-Louis Benoît
StarringJuliette Binoche
William Hurt

Stephanie Buttle
Paul Guilfoyle
Richard Jenkins
Kent Broadhurst
Henry Bean
Barbara Garrick
Bernard Breuse
Music bySonia Wieder-Atherton
CinematographyDietrich Lohmann
Edited byClare Atherton
Distributed byUGC (France)
BMG Independents (US)
Release date
Running time
90 minutes

A Couch in New York (French title Un divan à New York) is a 1996 film about an anonymous exchange of apartments between a successful New York psychoanalyst and a young woman from Paris. It was written and directed by Chantal Akerman.


Henry Harriston is a psychoanalyst whose patients are driving him crazy by constantly leaving him messages during his off hours. On a whim he places an ad offering up his apartment for a housing swap. Béatrice Saulnier (Juliette Binoche) a Parisian dancer responds to his ad and without meeting the two switch apartments. Béatrice is impressed with Henry's high-tech apartment which is both beautiful and spacious. Henry meanwhile is horrified when he arrives in Béatrice's apartment and finds it filthy and messy.

Meanwhile, Henry's patients, who Henry sees at home, begin coming to his apartment seeking therapy. Béatrice begins listening to their stories, and the patients accept her as Henry's temporary replacement.

At Béatrice's apartment Henry discovers a cache of love-letters written to Béatrice by various men. Béatrice's lovers also begin showing up in her apartment and talking to Henry about their love for her. When they begin calling the apartment telling Henry how helpful he was and how they want to talk to him again he turns tail and returns to New York.

Originally intending to simply pick up his mail, Henry notices that his patients keep coming in and out of his apartment and, when he tries to enter his apartment, is pushed out by Béatrice's friend who is posing as her receptionist. Believing that Béatrice is intentionally running a scam, he goes to confront her, posing as a fake patient, John. Instead of confronting her however, he keeps up the ruse of being a patient, but is unable to talk and the session consists of Béatrice and Henry saying "Yes" back and forth at one another. Despite this, the two find themselves attracted to one another and the session ends with Béatrice suggesting that Henry, as John, come back. Henry meanwhile is convinced that Béatrice really does mean well and decides to keep up the ruse and continue seeing her.

After a particular session in which Henry talks about his distant relationship with his mother, both Henry and Béatrice begin to think they've fallen in love with one another. Henry refuses to say anything, feeling too cowardly, while Béatrice's friend tells her she cannot be involved in a relationship with a patient. Béatrice and Henry become close and continue to feel strongly towards one another. During one of their sessions the light turns off and both secretly whisper love confessions in the dark, but neither hear's what the other is saying. Henry's friend urges him to run to Béatrice or write her a letter but as these are all things that Béatrice's previous lovers have done that have failed, Henry refuses. He decides that the only way the situation will be resolved is if Béatrice confesses her love to him. Instead she calls him late at night to tell him their sessions must come to an end as she is returning to Paris. Henry tells Béatrice he loves her, but she hangs up before she hears what he has said.

Henry rushes to the airport hoping to get a last minute flight to Paris. Unfortunately, the plane is overbooked. Henry decides to wait on standby. He is able to get the last ticket as one passenger has not shown up, however that ticket belonged to Béatrice, so while Henry flies to Paris, searching the plane, looking for Béatrice, Béatrice stays behind.

Eventually arriving home, Béatrice realizes she cannot go to her apart as Henry is still in her apartment and goes to stay with her neighbour. On her neighbour's terrace she sees her plants which have flourished in her absence. She strikes up a conversation with Henry, who she cannot see through the plants. He disguises his voice so she will not recognize him. Talking to Henry through the plants Béatrice confesses that she came early because she had fallen in love with one of Henry's patients, John.

Realizing that Henry and John are one and the same person, Béatrice climbs over the terrace back into her apartment and kisses Henry, telling him she loves him.



The film received poor reviews upon release. Akerman, Binoche and Hurt were criticized for being poor at handling both the comedic and romantic aspects of the film.[1][2]


  1. ^ Rooney, David. "Review: 'A Couch in New York'". Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  2. ^ MASLIN, JANET. "FILM REVIEW; Sweet and Sour, a Romantic Blend". Retrieved 28 December 2016.

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