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In France in the mid-'50s, Catherine (Marilou Lopes-Benites) enjoys toying with her older sister, Marie-Anne (Lola Giovannetti), by reading her the story of the murderous and oft-married Bluebeard, embellishing the story with plenty of gore and scaring the girl out of her wits. As Catherine rereads the story, we're taken back to the year 1697, as Lord Bluebeard (Dominique Thomas) prepares to make Marie-Catherine (Lola Créton) his seventh wife. Marie-Catherine's youth and innocence make her an especially attractive quarry to Bluebeard, and rather than murder her right away, he decides to wait a while in order to savor the terrible joy of claiming her life. However, as Bluebeard becomes caught in a cycle of events that keep him from following through on his wife's murder, the two slowly become something like a normal couple and Marie-Catherine begins to turn the tables on her spouse.
Despite possibly the most charming child performance in a movie ever (no I have not watched all movies ever) by Marilou Lopes-Benites, I didn't allow myself to fall for Bluebeard, though this little girl narrator is so winsome that on occasion her charm has the audience gasping.
The way that Bluebeard is shot is very casual, almost matter-of-fact and Rohmerian, strangely for what is potentially such an atmospheric story. The level of graft going on is very low, more befitting a conversational type film a la Rohmer. I also took badly to a scene of animal slaughter that seemed inhumane.
I think comparisons with Tarsem Singh's wonderful movie The Fall are beneficial. In both movies there have two timelines, the first, the timeline of narration is set in the early Twentieth Century, the second is a period fantasy being narrated. In both movies there is a charming child actress, in The Fall it's Catinca Untaru. Where The Fall succeeds in my view is that the fantastical narrative really feels like a product of the narrators' minds. In Bluebeard, even though the girls are reading from a book, the resultant fantasy doesn't feel like a product of their minds, but distinctly a product of Catherine Breillat's mind, too knowing and sophisticated. Quite clearly for example the children would not have been imagining the squirming of a dying animal. Even though the narration is less ostentatious, and takes up less screen time, as with The Fall you really can make a case for it being the most moving part.
I think Breillat did manage to access the essence of the Bluebeard story which is that if you are a big ugly sensitive oaf, you are condemned to not participate in life, one of my fondest quotes, from Le Quai Des Brumes / Port of Shadows (in French it's more eloquent) is "It's horrible to love like Romeo when you look like Bluebeard!". I think that's what worse is that women often don't acknowledge that it's possible that such a man could have the feelings of Romeo, as if only pretty and graceful men could feel like that. Something that should never be forgotten is that passion is something everyone feels.
Brief summary of the plot is that Bluebeard is a rich man rumoured to have murdered previous wives. He takes new wives without dowry, and persuades Marie-Catherine, a child bride, to marry him. There are some funny post marital scenes, like when Bluebeard is sat eating an ostrich egg, and Marie-Catherine is sat eating a quail egg side by side.
I really am fond of the movie, but I would have liked to see more mise-en-scene, the movie as I say, is far too casual. There is a feeling of great boredom that arises from the last scene of the fantasy strand, in a scene that should perhaps be incredibly stirring.
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