In Lausanne, the aspirant pianist Jeanne Pollet has lunch with her mother Louise Pollet, her boyfriend Axel and his mother. Lenna leans that when she was born, a nurse had mistakenly told ... See full summary »
1760s France. Suzanne is shocked when her bourgeois family sends her to a convent. There she faces oppression and torment, leading her to fight back and expose the dehumanizing effect of cloistered life.
Villa Amalia is the story of Ann, a musician, whose life is turned upside down by a kiss. When she sees Thomas kissing another woman, Ann makes a clean break, leaving him and everything ... See full summary »
Young Queen Margot finds herself trapped in an arranged marriage amidst a religious war between Catholics and Protestants. She hopes to escape with a new lover, but finds herself imprisoned by her powerful and ruthless family.
Brigitte and Xavier are a couple of cattle farmers living and working together in Normandy. They have always got on well but now that their two children have left the household routine and ... See full summary »
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
Joseph Conrad wrote his novella, "The Return" in tribute to Henry James, whose "The Spolis of Poynton" inspired him to write about a man who regards people as objects of ownership-- and is gobsmacked when his most prized possession, his wife, walks out on him. On the page it's a tight little chamber piece, with overtones of Ibsen and Strindberg. On the screen the great Patrice Chereau turns it into something else -- an opera in which the images sing rather than the performers. Pascale Greggory is in top form as a haute bourgeois "man who has everything" whose smugness masks a total disdain for feeling. When the superb Isabelle Huppert leaves a note to say she's leaving, the brandy decanter he drops echoes like the sword of Siegfried in Chereau's famed production of Wagner's "Ring" cycle. (Fabio Vacchi's amazing Alban Berg-like score seals the deal on this aspect of the work.) The dramatic set-to that results finds our non-hero groping for words to speak to the feelings he's never experienced before -- longing, regret, and finally grief at the loss of a love he's never allowed himself to know.
As far from Merchant-Ivory as one can possibly imagine Chereau and production designer Olivier Radot (new to la famille Chereau) place the action in a museum-like mansion where a small army of servants move about at the service of this infernal couple and their friends. Scenes of their fashionable parties suggest the Verdurins in Proust with cinematographer Eric Gauthier indulging in a color palette that makes the screen seem like a Manet come to life.
Chereau is doubtless familiar with what Georges Bataille wrote of Manet: "A little superficial perhaps, but driven by inner forces that gave him no rest, Manet was possessed by a desire for something beyond his reach which he never fully understood and which left him for ever tantalized and unsatisfied, on the brink of nervous exhaustion." That's perfect description of the emotional heart of this very great film.
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