Although this remake of the 1962 classic is beautifully shot and acted, it's so hollow and bleak that it leaves us cold. The topic at hand is the clash between passionate romance and a suitable marriage in a time and place where society told you how to live your life. And while the production design lavishly recreates the period, there's so little hope on display that we feel trapped in a loveless marriage ourselves.
It's 1928, and lifelong buddies Therese and Anne (Tautou and Demoustier) are finally of age, ready to launch themselves into adulthood. Therese has always been promised to Anne's swaggering brother Bernard (Lellouche), and she's excited at the thought of life with him. But nothing prepares her for the harsh, icy reality. Meanwhile, Anne is freer to explore her romantic longing for the poor but sexy fisherman Azevedo (Weber). Of course he's not remotely suitable, so Therese is sent to make Anne see reason. But when she meets Azevedo, she only makes things worse. Meanwhile, her relationship with Bernard takes an even more sinister turn.
Yes, this is a film about a woman trapped in the very life she always dreamed of having, constrained by society from living her own life and forced to take drastic action. But even this doesn't have the results she was expecting, because in this time and place, a woman simply could not control her own destiny. This is an odd kind of film for the usually gregarious Tautou and Lellouche to make, as the grim tone robs them of their usual overpowering charm. Which means that they deliver potent performances as people who are rather pathetic and unlikeable.
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Such is the premise of Alias Betty, a curiously titled film that digs far deeper into questions about the appropriateness of parents and the definition of insanity -- all while deftly avoiding a drop into movie of the week territory.
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Made in 1985, Claude Miller's film focuses on a bratty girl (Charlotte Gainsbourg, only 14 at the time) wasting away a month after school is out and before she goes on summer holiday. Charlotte becomes obsessed with a child piano prodigy and through a ridiculous coincidence, ends up encountering her en route to getting her piano stool repaired. Charlotte then hangs around the metal shop in order to try to get closer to Clara, the prodigy, and hopefully spend her holiday with the young girl.
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In this adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull, Sagnier gets fourth billing, yet the title would indicate she's center stage. Well, in a way, she is. Without her zombified, dazed expression and bimbo haircut, Sagnier provides the sexual energy that makes this story work at all: She's the central cog in a love quadrangle, which involves an aging actress, her old director of a beau, a young upstart director, and of course, Lili. The older couple and the younger couple drift apart because of the old man's wandering eye -- and who can blame him? And Lili sees a career boost in the old man, whereas the young director (Robinson Stévenin) is still working through his experimental -- and awful -- phase of filmmaking.
Continue reading: La Petite Lili Review
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