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During France's belle époque before World War I, elegant cars, mansions, and servants defined the lives of les grandes horizontals, the courtesans of kings and millionaires. One of the most successful, Lea de Lonval, is approaching a certain age when an older associate, Charlotte Peloux, asks Lea to take on her 19 year old son, whom Lea has called Chéri since he was a child. They become lovers and, to their surprise, the relationship lasts six years. When it ends abruptly with a marriage his mother arranges to the daughter of another courtesan, Lea finds herself miserable. Has she fallen in love? If so, do she -- and Chéri - have any choices? Written by
Iben Hjejle was personally called up by director Stephen Frears and didn't know she was going to star opposite big Hollywood names before she began filming her first scene. See more »
In the closing credits, 'thanks' are given to France's national railway, the Societe National Chemin de Fer, known as the "SNCF". However the credits have the letters out of sequence, calling it the "SCNF". See more »
We may think ourselves familiar in this day and age with the notion that whores of every description can very easily achieve fame and fortune. But towards the end of the 19th century, there what came to be known in France as the "Belle Epoque", a select group of courtesans, who became for a short period, the most celebrated and powerful women in the long history of prostitution.
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How wonderful to escape recessionary 2009 for a more glamorous world - Paris of the Belle Epoque. Every scene is a feast for the eye - including some marvellous Art Nouveau interiors - and the sun always seems to be shining on dewy gardens or a blue-green sea.
And in these luscious settings unfolds a tale of love with a capital L. It is the tale of a strong, wise heroine and a poetic, spoilt young man
a couple who never thought they would find love, both of whom
recognise in their different ways that it has found them.
The acting is superb. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the heroine splendidly, and Rupert Friend has the beauty of a figure from a Burne-Jones painting. Christopher Hampton's screenplay is witty and seductive. The film score sets the tale off perfectly.
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