In a French village, Manou is an Italian logger, virile, with a broad laugh. He can't say no to women's sexual invitations, and jealous villagers blame him for recent fires and a flood. He ...
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In a French village, Manou is an Italian logger, virile, with a broad laugh. He can't say no to women's sexual invitations, and jealous villagers blame him for recent fires and a flood. He is innocent; the culprit is "Mademoiselle," town schoolmarm, a recent arrival admired by all, but sexually repressed and obsessed with Manou. She sets the first fire accidentally and throbs watching a shirtless Manou perform heroics. Subsequent catastrophes are no accident and express her mad passion for him. Also, after befriending Manou's son, she turns on the lad, making him miserable and raising his suspicions. Her designs, Manou's frank innocence, and the town's xenophobia mix explosively.Written by
The legendary Jeanne Moreau stars as Mademoiselle, a school teacher, filled with repressed sexual urges, in a small French village. She finds ways to vent her desires, mostly through arson and other destructive acts.
Mademoiselle seems like a film that desperately wants to be profound. It seems like a film that wants to say something about repressing desires, and the insignificance of mankind against nature. For the most part, it fails. It is unclear whether Mademoiselle's violent actions are the product of sexual desire or simple sadism. She sets fires and opens floodgates, but is it a sexual urge? Not really, she just seems to get a kick out of watching the townspeople scramble to save their lives and possessions.
And while the film is directed with an interesting visual flair that does often capture the beauty of nature quite well, it never really achieves a level of Lean-esquire glory or magnificence. Sure, it's pretty to look at, but what's the point? The acting is also sorely lacking. Ettore Manni, who plays Mademoiselle's (and everyone else's) sexual interest, is just not very good. He often unleashes these boisterous laughs, and every time I cringed. It's not even a little bit convincing. Even the usually wonderful Moreau fails to impress here. Her performance just feels hollow. As she has proved in the past that she can be very good, I blame director Tony Richardson, who, unlike someone like François Truffaut or Louis Malle, clearly doesn't grasp what Moreau is capable of.
That's not to say Mademoiselle is a failure. There are several deeply disturbing moments, one in particular involving a rabbit. The film seems to be trying to say that all human beings can be monsters at times, and we take out our suppressed aggression on whatever innocence may be around us. Still, the film seems to lack a core of genuine emotional depth, and therefore, lacks resonance. It doesn't help that it tends to move along at a remarkably slow pace, which causes it to try the viewer's patience at times.
However, I would probably give Mademoiselle a mild recommendation, if for nothing besides the attractive visuals and the fact that it contains Jeanne Moreau.
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