Published Sep 26, 2007This latest effort by Catherine Breillat is surprisingly inexplicit theres no rape, genital close-ups or unnatural use of foreign objects. But if you think that means the artist has mellowed, think again.
Set in the 1830s, the film tells the story of Vellini (Asia Argento), the decade-long mistress of noted libertine Ryno de Varigny (Fuad Ait Attou). After an extended sexual relationship, Ryno is set to marry virtuous aristocrat Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida) and must give up Vellinis company in order to do so. But that doesnt mean Vellini wont resent the hell out of this arrangement or show up from a distance to tempt him.
Whatever the more subdued elements of this movie, its still as socially brutal as anything in the Breillat canon. The hypocrisies of courtly love and the delusions of social propriety are laid bare the films marriage, clearly a pretence and a transaction more than a genuine relationship, is the screen on which various delusional ideals are projected.
Argento knocks it out of the park with a convulsive performance that suits the character, while Attou appropriately shows the same kind of blank impassivity that marked the idiot boyfriend from the directors Romance. If the film is less lacerating than Breillats usual work its still no Merchant Ivory costumer the period locations are lit like porn and the fancy costumes are used to hide the bodies whose truths must inevitably come out.
Its not a masterpiece or one of the auteurs major films but its still a highly watchable shredding of the polite conventions of both the society it depicts and the genre to which it is nominally connected. (Mongrel Media)