After having discovered that his wife Elise (Lily Cole) has been unfaithful to him, Octave (Pete Doherty) challenges her lover to a duel and, tragically, is shot in the first few minutes of the movie.
The tragedy - both for the audience and movie - is that Octave survives and the hapless Doherty is doomed to mumble his way through a script that would have left Daniel Day Lewis, at his love-struck best, struggling hopelessly.
Forced to utter such lines as "Are you loved? Do you want to be loved?", the dejected Doherty looked ready to make a run from the set. The screenplay required that, on a couple of occasions, he arrived and left the scene within minutes and he could barely conceal his relief as he did so. Members of the audience at Cannes followed suit, leaving the theatre, at first one by one and then in small teams.
Indeed, Confessions of a Child of the Century would have been an ambitious project for a veteran director leading a cast of seasoned actors; French Romantic literature makes difficult reading, let alone adaptation, and the emotional complexities and purple prose of Alfred de Musset's autobiography are as lost in translation as Doherty's talents are lost in the role.
In spite of savage reviews - Screen Daily's writer, noting that 'rarely has decadence seemed so dull' must have canvassed the same ushers at Cannes as I; they wondered why Doherty had been given the role at all, and why the story hadn't been filmed in its native French.
Indeed, all is not lost, after all. It's not too late for the movie to be dubbed into French and given English subtitles, it may yet stand a chance. De Musset's sign, a syndrome characterised by involuntary head movements and named after the author, could be used to explain Doherty's strange, palsied gestures, and audiences would be none the wiser to his atrocious acting.
Alternatively, the dialogue could be removed completely, and footage used as a video for Celine Dion's excellent "Lettre de George Sand à Alfred de Musset".
And then everybody would be happy.
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