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Paris shortly before World War I. Wealthy and self-satisfied, Jean Hervey is returning home from work, describing life with his wife of 10 years, Gabrielle; he values her as impassive and stolid. However, that day she's gone, leaving a letter that she's joining a man she loves. Jean is devastated, but within minutes she's returned, telling him that her resolve has failed. Over the next two days, he questions, demands, begs, and parries with her: why did she leave, why did she return, does she love him, did she ever love him, who is her lover, is she passionate with her lover? She's calm as alabaster, reserved. Is she in danger? When she makes an offer, how will he respond? Written by
I've been watching & thoroughly enjoying Isabelle Huppert's films since 'The Lacemaker'. This time, what struck me was the intensity of Huppert's next-to-passive, almost casually indifferent postures of contempt for her husband. It is because of her being so minimal and apathetic that her performance harnesses its power and devastation. And this is what enhances Greggory's reactive performance as being so complementary, that of a once smug now tortured soul who slips and struggles to re-grasp a heart turned cold. He's just left grabbing air in the end. The looks on the faces of the chorus, their social clique & the servants in the troubled Hervey household says it all.
Going in, I was reminded of another story of martial discord, David Hughes Jone's 'Betrayal' but 'Gabrielle' hit me as being more incisive and oppressive than anything I've seen adapted for Pinter. I don't need to state the obvious that parlor films of this variety appeal only to those with an acquired taste. As for me, I can only say that I prefer the ice cubes that go with my scotch jagged & stinging cold like the ingredients in this film.
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