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In 1832, cholera ravages Provence (South of France). After several misadventures, Angelo, young Italian officer hunted by the Austrian secret police, meets Pauline de Theus, a young lady. After a second accidental meeting, both will start the search of Pauline's husband in a chaotic country.Written by
Remy Amouroux <Remy.Amouroux@imag.fr>
Provence provides a stunning locale for this romantic adventure. The camera work is exquisite and every opportunity is taken to capture the natural beauty of this region. The story is simple enough. Angelo, an Italian colonel (handsome Olivier Martinez) escapes from Austrian-oppressed Italy to raise funds in the continuing battle against Austria. He finds more than an unsympathetic acceptance in France. Most of the towns through which he rides are beset with cholera. The camera scenes of the dead and dying victims, horse-drawn carts packed high with bodies and funeral pyres are terrifying enough, but it is the fluttering of black wings as crows seek out the eyes of the dying victims that frighten most. Some of the close-ups are pretty grim. In lighter vein I liked the scene where a cat befriends our horseman and he talks to it on the roof about how wars are won with money as much as guns. The cat is a great little actor. The horseman an accomplished swordsman carves his way through many a desperate situation (What hero doesn't?) He acquires a bottle of medicine from a dying stranger who has taught him a massage technique to avert death from cholera. On his way back to Italy with a bag of gold coins, he gives protection to Pauline, a doctor's wife (Juliette Binoche)who is seeking out her missing husband in the cholera-infected area. The young 25-year old colonel who sends almost daily letters to his mother in Italy (they are really a diary of events) behaves as the perfect gentleman at all times, but his protegee is obviously drawn to him. Here is a love story where the lovers admire from a distance never submitting to the chemistry which is drawing them together. When the woman collapses with cholera, all existing barriers are forgotten as he works on her frantically with his acquired knowledge to save her life. One of the great joys of this film is to watch the handsome faces of Martinez and Binoche. Their beauty contrasts sharply with the agonised plight of the villagers and the devilish black crows which hover continuously about the dead, fluttering out through open doors and windows. The ending may not satisfy some, but it leaves us with the thought that somewhere sometime all will be well again.
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