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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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An atmospheric love story in pre first world war France
My feelings about this film swung between two competing schools of thought as I watched it.
One - do I feel any attachment and engagement in this story of Belle Epoque Paris where an extremely wealthy courtesan falls in love with the son of an extremely wealthy courtesan, a young man with apparently few redeeming features to his character ?
Two - This is a very well made and acted film - Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent, drawing me into the feelings of her character as the film progressed and Rupert Friend makes much of a role that I'm sure other young actors would have found too complex
In the end I settled closer to thought number two - this is a film with much to say about love and who we fall in love with.
I was fortunate to attend a screening of this film at which both the writer - Christopher Hampton & director Stephen Frears were present and enjoyed listening to them talk about the film, it's development and their hopes for it. Two very engaging characters who proved to be happy to answer all kinds of questions that we the Nottingham audience could throw at them
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