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Joan Juliet Buck,
Although Henry James is considered a difficult novelist,a surprising number of his works have made it to the screen and this is the second adaptation of his celebrated novella "The Aspern Papers",the first version being a rather gloomy affair filmed in 1947 with Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead.This is altogether a much brighter,lighter affair set in a sun-drenched villa.The story concerns a shy,withdrawn woman(Bulle Ogier)who looks after her very elderly aunt(Alida Valli).She is approached by a scholar(Jean Sorel,best known for his role as Catherine Deneuve's husband in "Belle De Jour") who is anxious to get his hands on some poems written by a famous American poet who had an affair with the reclusive aunt years ago and who it is rumoured left them in her possession.
This basic situation mirrors the plots of many James' novels (Washington Square,The Wings of the dove)where a young good-looking but rather unscrupulous man tries to take advantage of a shy,insecure woman for personal or financial reasons and the film deals subtly with the turmoil of emotions this arouses in the niece.Argentinian director Eduardo DeGregorio has worked with Bulle Ogier before on several films he scripted for her regular director Jacques Rivette and he retains many of the latter's qualities of ambiguity and a pervading mystery.
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