At a wake one night in 1945, a group of aged women recall the life of one of their number. Sixty years before, Thérèse was barely 20 years old when she eloped with her boyfriend, Firmin, a ... See full summary »
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Thanks to the law of 1948 and to her grandmother, the nominal tenant who is always absent, Francesca Cigalone and all her tribe (thoughtless husband, orphan sister, self-centered film maker... See full summary »
At a wake one night in 1945, a group of aged women recall the life of one of their number. Sixty years before, Thérèse was barely 20 years old when she eloped with her boyfriend, Firmin, a blacksmith, to Châtillon, a town in Provence. Here, she makes the acquaintance of the wealthy Madame Numance, who is known for her good deeds. Realising that Thérèse is pregnant and unemployed, Madame Numance insists that she moves into a house on her estate. Whilst Firmin resents the arrangement, Thérèse soon finds that she can exploit the situation, using her benefactor's naivety and generosity for her own gain.. Written by
This movie gave an academic soul like my own the urge to read Giono's book. A critic at Liberation pans the movie for being too linear and academic, while the critics at Le Monde were more enthusiastic about it -- correctly pointing out that a number of very key logical connections in the story were omitted in the film. This tactic keeps the viewer from having a firm grasp of what is happening in the story -- particularly if your native language does not happen to be French.
The opening scene with the old women (les veilleuses) is virtually incomprehensible unless one has a very solid grasp of idiomatic French -- for the non-natives I recommend either reading the book first or seeing a subtitled version. The story of Thérèse (played by Monique Mélinand and Laetitia Casta) develops from the gossip at the vigil.
The story becomes easier to follow once the camera leaves the old women, but just...
The filming is done in a style that reminds me of Peter Greenaway, with lots of long shots and bright colors (for which the viewer is quite eager by this point of the movie). Towards the end of the film there is a scene which in itself is worth the price of admission: Eric Gautier and Raoul Ruiz apparently spent a very long time on this scene filmed in 4 below weather on the side of a mountain in Luse. The result is stunning. I am not sure that it is an intentional nod towards Bergman's Seventh Seal -- perhaps it is just the carts but the color and fury of the storm were enhanced with this weird memory of death playing chess with a man...
John Malkovich. Brilliant body language. This is a good thing, because his French is quite incomprehensible at a couple of points in this film. This may have been intentional -- his character's motivation is meant to be unfathomable, why not his speech as well? After the role he played in Les Miserables for France 3, it is clear that he can speak French very clearly (apparently he worked closely with a coach -- the result was a very good Inspector Javert). In this movie, though, my friend (a French prof) and I were very glad when he started counting in English.
Laetitia Casta is quite good in the movie. With the exception of a badly botched kiss at the beginning of the movie, she seems very credible in the role and fits as seemlessly into the skin of an 89-year-old as that of a youngster.
To sum up... the movie is long, and difficult to understand. It is not a cheeseburger. I do think it will be richer the second time around and so I will wait to give it a rating until then. The work that went into the movie is worth at least that much effort...
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