The Widow of Saint-Pierre Review
By Christopher Null
Based on a true story, The Widow of Saint-Pierre is a surprisingly effective French period piece that spins a timeless tale of love and compassion.
In 1849, we find ourselves on a French island colony near the Canadian coast, a cold and inhospitable land with few inhabitants. In a night of drunkenness, Auguste (Emir Kusturica) and his friend kill a local man. Auguste is sentenced to die. The only problem -- there's no guillotine on the island, and no executioner either.
While Auguste waits for his mode of death to arrive from Paris, he is put into the employ of the local police chief (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife (Juliette Binoche). Auguste proves truly repentant, and before long he's saved a local woman's life and has become the town hero. By the time the guillotine (the "widow" of the title) arrives, the townsfolk -- and the chief -- are in full revolt, demanding Auguste be spared. But the local politicians, and the king in France, have a different agenda.
The story is compelling, and the friendship that develops between Auguste and Binoche's Pauline is a powerful story arc. Unfortunately, director Patrice Leconte makes some bad choices, using a handheld camera at various askew angles and employing shock zooms for much of the movie. The MTV style histrionics are a poor match for the somber, depressing period piece, and they distract significantly from an otherwise solid picture.
Aka La Veuve de Saint-Pierre, The Widow of St. Pierre.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 19th April 2000
Distributed by: Lions Gate Releasing
Production compaines: Cinémaginaire Inc., Epithete films, France2 Cinéma
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 67 Rotten: 9
Cast & Crew
Starring: Daniel Auteuil as Jean, le capitaine, Emir Kusturica as Joseph Auguste Néel, Juliette Binoche as Pauline, l'épouse du capitaine, Michel Duchaussoy as le gouverneur, Philippe Magnan as le président Venot, Christian Charmetant as le commissaire de la Marine, Philippe du Janerand as le chef douanier, Reynald Bouchard as Louis Ollivier, Ghyslain Tremblay as Monsieur Chevassus, le bourreau, Marc Béland as le soldat Loïc, Yves Jacques as le contre-amiral, Maurice Chevit as le père du gouverneur, Catherine Lascault as la Malvilain, Dominique Quesnel as le propriétaire, Anne-Marie Philipe as l'épouse du gouverneur, Sylvie Moreau as Adrienne