The Last Mistress Catherine Breillat

The Last Mistress Catherine Breillat
French director Catherine Breillat’s latest cinematic offering, based on a nineteenth century novel, explores the precarious border between passion and hate. Set in 1835, The Last Mistress tells the story of Ryno (Fu-ad Ait Aattou), a notorious Parisian libertine engaged to be married to the infinitely innocent Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida). But the pending marriage is overshadowed by Ryno’s past, namely his infamous relationship with his mistress of ten years, Vellini (Asia Argento). Told predominantly through flashback scenes, the film takes us through the ten-year affair between Ryno and Vellini. While its plot is somewhat predictable, the film is carried by Argento’s throaty sensuality and Aattou’s perplexingly effeminate beauty. And seeing as the bulk of the film focuses on these two things, displayed to best effect in the unabashedly many bedroom scenes, Breillat shows she knows what works to her advantage. Despite strong performances from the leads, the rest of the cast offer a somewhat less enthralling depiction of the French aristocracy. Fortunately, the central dilemma of the Ryno/Vellini affair is enough to satisfactorily hold up the rest of the film. With Breillat’s past work in mind, The Last Mistress is subtle and satisfying as a feminist commentary on nineteenth century France. But taken any other way, it’s a mess of sex, blood and French Restoration garb. With no special features to speak of, the DVD is disappointing. But while The Last Mistress may not be the chef-d’oeuvre you were hoping for from Catherine Breillat, it manages to recycle a worn-out theme into something original. (Mongrel Media)