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At 30, boyish penniless aristocrat Ryno de Marigny has separated from Villini, a passionate Spaniard and his mistress of 10 years. He's now in love with Hermangarde, a young, wealthy, and titled virgin. Days before the wedding, the bride's grandmother sits Ryno down and insists on knowing if his affair is over. He relates a story of passion, which we see in flashbacks, swearing he loves only Hermangarde. After the wedding, the couple moves to a castle by the sea. And Villini? Can passion survive disgust and self-loathing?Written by
this is what an 'art-house' French movie should be! (that it isn't great is alright)
The Last Mistress, a film by Catherine Breillat, director of the hot-n-sexy (and probably X-rated if released in the 1970s) Romance, deals with the torn and frayed and wretched relationship between Vellini (Asia Argento), and Ryno de Marigny (first timer Fu'ad Ait Aattou), and how Ryno's mistress threatens his marriage to Hermandarde (Roxane Mesquida), granddaughter of a tough but very fair and reasonable old matriarch. Breillat's direction of the story, which is mostly told in flashback as the grandmother of her soon-to-be-grandson-in-law tells all about his very turbulent bond with Vellini, is sometimes a little dull and stodgy, and it drags in spots that it really should pick up in high gear.
But damn it all if it's not some absorbing times in the midst of a classic period setting among character we can relish in. Granted, Breillat likely cast Aattou for constantly having a 'sexy-man' look (somewhat akin, if you ask me, of a young Mick Jagger with ridiculously striking eyes and big lips). Argento, on the other hand, is cast perfectly, and for every bit that Aatou and Mesquida don't quite connect as husband and wife it's made up for by the total, hot connection between the real two leads. Argento is right at home with this twisted, damaged but alive and easily emotional creature, who has that tendency in French melodramas for tragedy at any moment just to get a rise. But she's also tender in surprising moments, and lets her soul bare completely in rough sex scenes (the craziest set in the desert following a very sudden death of a character), which par for Breillat are go-for-broke.
What the film may lack in really being a fully "modern" work- it feels like a lot of it is so stuck in the period novel setting that it's locked away, which maybe was the right choice- it's made up for by the stars' appeal and the drive of the torrid love affair that just won't go away. It's appealing, boring, and highly charged in equal measure.
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