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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
Jacques Rivette has directed a good film based on a famous novel by Honoré De Balzac.
France is one of those few film making nations where the tradition of making films based on best selling as well as famous books continues to flourish as there is a huge cinema literate public which is always willing to welcome such films. This phenomenon has also a lot to do with the fact that a lot of French writers have transformed themselves into directors after having started their careers as writers. One can cite the names of writers such as Michel Houellebecq, Virginie Despentes, Yann Moix and Vincent Ravalec who have also worked behind the camera. By directing 'The Duchess of Langeais'/'Ne Touchez Pas La Hache' in 2006, it is after a long period of 41 years that French director Jacques Rivette has made a film based on a famous classic of French literature. Famous French writer of 'enlightenment period' Denis Diderot was the first person whose name was included in Rivette's Filmography as in 1965 when he chose to direct "La Religieuse" based on Diderot's famous novel about the tough live of a young nun. For the film 'The Duchess of Langeais', Jacques Rivette decided to film one of Honoré De Balzac's famous novels "La Duchesse De Langeais" which appeared in 1834 under the title 'Ne Touchez Pas La Hache". By making this film, Rivette has done an excellent job of faithfully adapting Balzac in order to give his actors Jeanne Balibar & Guillaume Depardieu a chance to render some true to life performances. There are also good performances by some big names of French cinema namely Bulle Ogier, Marc Barbé, Michel Piccoli and Barbet Schroeder. Rivette's film is about the cunning games of love and seduction which noble men and women played in olden times. Those were brilliant times when duels were fought on amazingly simple pretexts to protect one's honor in love. This is a film for those who enjoy good cinema as well as for all admirers of French culture, civilization and language.
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