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.
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We saw this yesterday as part of the annual 2010 French Film Festival at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. As emotionally brutal as is one of the three parallel stories in this film, it was still a welcome relief from the nastiness of its festival predecessor, The Time of the Charity Fete is Over.
This amazing Cannes Award winning Best First Film was a terrific piece of work. I was fully absorbed into the three stories. A Moroccan widow journeys to Marseilles to find out why her son was murdered. A lovely middle class 17 year old falls in first-love with a charismatic street punk. A hapless spineless immigrant loser considers a money and life altering scheme that will have him exchanging places with a look-alike hard core criminal doing time. Aside from prison,all three stories shared a few common themes- leaving someone and being left, and inexplicable, deep, raw, soul-filled love. While the stories may have been reminiscent of others before them , the film was well scripted and the performances were 100% spot on.( I did feel that the film would have been much stronger if the last mentioned story were a different one; I just did not care about the loser, and it felt like his story, the least interesting of all to me, took the most time to tell.) I fully expect and hope to see the Moroccan woman, and the girl and boy, move on to become major stars. When they are on screen, your eyes are fully on them, and your heart is there too.
It makes perfect sense to me that the director , a most talented woman, Lea Fehner, grew up adjacent to a prison and worked with prisoners in her Social Work career. Her portrayal of these people and their lives, and the prison visiting days (all three stories share these)is completely documentary like in its authenticity. ( shudder. be thankful.) I look forward to her continued success.
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