11 November 2007 | lazarillo
Not really what you'd expect, but not too bad either
Although I've seen several of them now, I still don't know if I actually LIKE Catherine Breillat films. Her films are a strange contradiction: On one hand, they contain a lot of pretty graphic sex and always feature some of the most attractive actresses in Europe (and this one with Asia Argento and Roxanne Mesquia is certainly no exception). On the other though, they are often very depressing and told with such a harsh feminist bent that they probably make most people (well, most men anyway)feel more like castrating themselves than getting turned on. ( I actually haven't even seen her most notorious film, "Fat Girl", but after the truly depressing experience that was the supposedly very similar "36 Fillete" I've never wanted to).
You would expect then given Breillat's typical misanthropic bent that when she made a French costume drama like this one, the liaisons would be even more dangerous and the intentions even crueler. This is actually a surprisingly soft-hearted film though where all the main characters are pretty likable and sympathetic (at least in some ways). The only typically harsh Breillat touch is a couple having frenzied sex next to the funeral pyre of their dead daughter. The basic story involves a handsome young rake, who is about to marry a beautiful young heiress (Mesquia) with the blessing of her jaded-but-wise grandmother (who, since this is set in 1835, is herself a battle-scarred veteran of the original pre-revolutionary "dangerous liaison" era). He is unable to give up his long-time mistress, however, a social-climbing Spanish divorcée (Argento) with whom he has had a passionate ten year love-hate relationship. All the acting is very good and the characters believable (although you do have to wonder why a 19th Spanish noblewoman would have a tattoo on her butt). My only real complaint was that it was about a half an hour too long and the climax was pretty anti-climactic.
If you like either French costume dramas or typical Catherine Breillat films, you may or may not like this, since it ends being very different than either. It's not too bad though.