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André S. Labarthe
In Majorca, in 1823, a French general, Armand de Montriveau, overhears a cloistered nun singing in a chapel; he insists on speaking to her. She is Antoinette, for five years he has searched for her. Flash back to their meeting in Paris, he recently returned from Africa, she married and part of the highest society. She flirts with him, and soon he's captivated. His behavior is possessive, insistent. Then, it is her turn to become obsessed. Letters, balls, scandal, a kidnapping, and an ultimatum bring her to the cloister and him to melancholy. Whose steel proved sharper? Is it tragic or grotesque? Written by
Like several other recent period dramas, this film is lovely to look at but painful to sit through. The plot is trite and thin, the main actors are nothing to look at, and the wearisome long takes of nothing happening is enough to drive you mad. And when you think you're at last going to get a thrilling conclusion, the author and director let you down one final time. This might have made a good, short drama, but at this length it's a trial. And if you're looking for a steamy love story, you should be warned that the most exciting thing in LA DUCHESSE happens to a cigar.
Unless you're assigned to watch this for French Lit class, I would avoid it unless you're a sucker for costumes and period sets. A much better use of your time would be another recent French period piece: MOLIERE, which offers a sort of Gallic "Shakespeare in Love".
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