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A middle class family in Loire, where things seem just a tad off kilter. Philippe dotes on his mother, who has raised his two sisters and him. Gérard, a wealthy man just divorced, is paying attention to her, then drops her. Philippe is actually pleased, and retrieves from Gérard's garden a stone head - of the goddess Flora - that his mother had given Gérard. At the wedding of one of his sisters, Philippe meets Senta, a quirky and moody young woman: they fall quickly in love, despite her odd behaviors and Philippe's general good sense. Senta announces a plan for them to prove their love to each other; it involves poetry, tree planting, and murder. What will Philippe do?Written by
French Visa d'exploitation number 107930 See more »
Stéphanie "Senta" Bellange:
Some say that to live fully you have to have done four things. Plant a tree. Write a poem. Make love with your own sex. And kill someone.
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when it's at its best it's near-classic Chabrol on the topic of "love-at-first-sight"
Claude Chabrol still has it in him to craft a relationship drama with trust in the dark corners of the characters, and make it seem reasonably realistic. He's working from a novel by Ruth Rendell (and I can only guess how much more detail there is in there compared to here), but it feels like vintage Chabrol, with some updates for technological bits like cell phones, as he takes a romance to very peculiar, twisted lengths that somehow the audience buys completely because of the characters and the actors playing them. In The Bridemaid he opens on Philippe (Magimel), an accountant of some sort who has a kind but mixed-up family that's getting ready for Philippe's sister's wedding. As if in a slight update on Le Boucher, Chabrol has the set-up at the wedding for the two main players, as Philippe meets bridesmaid Senta (Laura Smet), and after the wedding she arrives at his house, drenched in rain, and they have a lustful encounter.
It's pretty close to immediately after this that Senta confesses her love for him, unquestionably, as if she knew it totally on first sight, and that now he is her's and so on. Upon this one might think, sarcastically, 'this can only end well', as love at first sight, save for a Disney movie, always leads to trouble. In this case Senta is adamant that Philippe, despite also confessing his love (however true or not is a curious part of the Bridesmaid I wasn't sure was a character flaw or a flaw in the story), "prove" his love for her. This includes two easy things and two out-of-the-question: plant a tree, write a poem, kill someone, and have sex with the same sex. Although Chabrol doesn't touch on that last one, the 'kill someone' part becomes the juicy angle to the story, as one is on edge if someone is really dead or how Philippe will play the next move, and how blinded by this obsession Senta has with Philippe.
And yet Senta's obsession isn't seen as something with hysterics or over-the-top acting. Far from it, and characteristic for a Chabrol film, Smet's performance is precisely subtle and kind and intelligent and all those things that reel Philippe in against all better judgment. It's an inspired turn by an actress (excuse me, 'actor') who I hope to see more of. Same goes for Magimel, who is the 'hero' of the story as the good guy who wants to be there for his mom and troubled younger sister, but also has this strange attraction to Senta that soon pits him in an untenable (or so he thinks) position. As far as that central storyline goes between Senta and Philippe, it's gold and cool and as good as anything Chabrol did in the late 60s and 70s, with sweet hints of the erotic thrown in from time to time.
The only downsides are, naturally, some disbelief with Philippe early on, or in the initial appearances of certain twists, and especially how we're meant to put some extra stock in Philippe's family troubles (mainly Patricia as a petty thief) that aren't well developed and works mostly to show how his family is as firm, warm counterpoint to Senta's clinging and desperate 'love'. But aside from this the fan of Chabrol whose been tracking his career for however long it's been going (since the late 50s early 60s with the other Cashier du cinema team) will hopefully be pleasantly surprised to know he's still got it in him to make compelling, dramatic cinema, with the usual Hitchcockian angles amped-up to a certain sinister, and ultimately tragic, glee. 8.5/10
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