During France's belle époque before World War I, elegant cars, mansions, and servants defined the lives of les grandes horizontals, the courtesans of kings and millionaires. One of the most successful, Lea de Lonval, is approaching a certain age when an older associate, Charlotte Peloux, asks Lea to take on her 19 year old son, whom Lea has called Chéri since he was a child. They become lovers and, to their surprise, the relationship lasts six years. When it ends abruptly with a marriage his mother arranges to the daughter of another courtesan, Lea finds herself lonely. Has she fallen in love? If so, do she -- and Chéri - have any choices?Written by
The project reunited Michelle Pfeiffer, Director Stephen Frears and writer Christopher Hampton. All three had worked together on Dangerous Liasons 20 years earlier. See more »
In the closing credits, 'thanks' are given to France's national railway, the Societe National Chemin de Fer, known as the "SNCF". However the credits have the letters out of sequence, calling it the "SCNF". See more »
We may think ourselves familiar in this day and age with the notion that whores of every description can very easily achieve fame and fortune. But towards the end of the 19th century, there what came to be known in France as the "Belle Epoque", a select group of courtesans, who became for a short period, the most celebrated and powerful women in the long history of prostitution.
See more »
Aging, Michelle Pfeiffer has become what Oscar Wilde called "That abomination of nature: A Handsome Woman". Her very trimmed figure looks spectacular sheathed in very glamorous Belle Epoque dresses and looking at her with contemporary eyes, that's fine.
What the director forgot in recreating so beautifully, so painfully all the paraphernalia necessary to reproduce that magnificent time in history was... the ideal of feminine beauty at the time.
We glaringly see it in the same old pictures (authentic) shown at the start of the movie, pictures of the great beauties then, like Lillie Langtry, Lia de Putti, la Bella Otero, etc. and it's obvious that those beauties where more on the side of Marilyn Monroe than Michelle Pfeiffer, who looks like a window display mannequin with no curves in the right places and no minimal waistline (Hourglass figure painfully obtained thanks to an oppressing corset, but there it was).
To give us total recall of that time our protagonist should have been somebody a bit fatter than Ms. Pfeiffer, since we readily forget all the changes the feminine figure has suffered just in the last 100 years; what was considered fashionable or desirable then was quite different from now, and a thin woman was totally undesirable.
The film is nice, in a very superficial way, since its main flaw is irreparable, because speaking English in this superbly French story, we get a jarring note, and it's this: All the "decadent" morality, social behavior, points of view about richly kept elegant cocottes by the upper class French men is something totally unknown to puritan Victorian English society. This utterly French "Menage a Trois" is totally lost in this English version of Paris life at the turn of the century.
The house where she lives, the street, the interior locations, the dresses, all that is perfectly fine (more than fine, exquisite), but THE ESENCE of Colette masterpiece is not there. Due to the strong visual appeal in interiors, color schemes, Art Nuveau architecture and Belle Epoque fashions, this is mainly eye candy for dress designers and interior decorators.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this