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In Kobo Abe’s 1964 novel “Tanin no Kao” (“The Face of Another”), a scientist left disfigured by an industrial accident dons a synthetic mask and poses as a different man in order to seduce his estranged wife. When she responds rather too readily to his advances, he reacts angrily, only to discover that she knew it was her husband all along.

Watching Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix,” I kept longing for a similar display of spousal intuition. This attractive, superbly acted drama — loosely adapted from 1960s French potboiler “Le Retour des Cendres” — is founded on a premise that’s wobbly to the point of distraction.

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