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The only thing more outrageous than French novelist George Sand's torrid love affair with the decadent author Alfred de Musset and her affinity for wearing men's clothing, was the content of her writing. Though Sand (otherwise known as the Baroness Dudevant) smoked cigars and cross-dressed, it was the boldness of her writing on issues such as the abstinence of marriage and women's frigidity that most contributed to the scandalous reputation she earned in French literary circles. When she met Alfred de Musset, the most gifted poet of his generation, the two quickly became a public cause celebrity while their work would go on to become some of the finest examples of 19th century romanticism.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
The film was shot in the actual rooms in the Hotel Danieli which Sand and Musset stayed in. See more »
Love does exist, it's not an illusion. One merely has to recognise it, and be humble before it.
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The original French theatrical version, which runs at 135 mins begins as Sand plans to leave her husband and Musset's father dies. This version continues after their final meeting as Sand begins to write her story and attempts in vain to see Musset one last time. This version ends with a direct to camera address by Sand at Musset's tomb. A shorter theatrical version was released in Germany, Spain, UK and US which begins with Sand reading from "Lélia" and ends with Sand and Musset's final meeting. It runs at 105 mins. This version contains two new scenes: Sand and Musset being introduced to each other and a dance sequence. However the opening sequences featuring Sands arrival in Paris during an uprising and her relationship with Marie Dorval are lost, as are the closing scenes as she attempts to see Musset a final time. Most DVD releases have favored the Original 135 min version which was more critically popular. See more »
I'm a great admirer of George Sand's works, so I was curious about this film, and have been ever since I heard that it came out in France in 1999. I finally got a chance to see it two weeks ago in New York. Diane Kurys' film is well-acted and beautifully shot. Unfortunately, viewers won't be much enlightened about Sand or Musset as writers by watching it. Nor is it a convincing love story. Both of these faults are mostly due to a mediocre script.
The basic outline of the facts of Sand's relationship with Musset are there, but any sense of *why* they had such a fatal obsession with each other is lacking. Lots of inane dialogue about love isn't enough! The two are barely together before they're fighting, and Musset is such an unpleasant, selfish, manipulative and immature fellow (a characterization that's apparently pretty true to the facts) that Sand's devotion to him is hard to fathom. Surprisingly, from a filmmaker with a feminist slant, you learn very little about Sand's beliefs as a woman or an artist. She seems like a sane person, though, and a hard-working writer (and that is historically accurate), but there's no depth, in spite of all that the lovely, talented Juliet Binoche can do. The character as written simply isn't interesting, and that's sad, because the real life George Sand was a fascinating woman.
The film's portrait of the Romantic era and its writers isn't much better. Yes, I suppose with all the bad behavior and opium-gulping, Musset and some others were like the childish, spoiled rock stars of today (which may have been the filmmaker's point), but there's no sense of what their work was like. When Sand and Musset talk about their writing and its meaning, they sound like rank amateurs. The one thing you learn about Sand's novel *Lelia* from the film is that it was about female frigidity and how few men are capable of arousing a woman. (Naturally, Musset soon cures Sand of her "frigidity." Hoo-boy). In reality, *Lelia* is a complex attempt to address many philosophical issues of the age and a struggle to find the meaning of existence, with or without God, but that doesn't make good cinema, I guess. It's easier to suppose that women are always going to write about sex, rather than to admit that they have any ideas of their own.
If you want real insight, you'd be far better off reading Sand's works (something like her most magnificent short story, "The Marquise," for starters). Or how about calling a moratorium on films about Sand's love life and actually bringing one of her works to the screen? That would be a real tribute.
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