A triumph of the will, Une vieille maîtresse marked Breillat’s brave return to filmmaking following a stroke that left her partially paralyzed. But you’d never know it from watching the film, her most sumptuously produced and opulently designed work to date, which premiered in competition at Cannes to great acclaim. A first-rate ensemble cast including Claude Sarraute, Yolande Moreau, Michael Lonsdale and a host of Breillat leading ladies (Amira Casara, Caroline Ducey, Sarah Pratt, Lio, Anne Parillaud) provide the scintillating courtly chatter in this tale of Victorian sexual intrigue, jealousy and obsession, liberally inspired by nineteenth-century dandy Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly’s novel of the same name. Reigning Euro bad-girl Asia Argento incarnates La Vellini as if she just stepped out of a Goya painting and into Dietrich’s role in The Devil Is a Woman, hell bent on pursuing sexual relations with longtime lover Ryno de Marigny (the very pretty and pouty Fu’ad Aït Aattou in his debut role) despite his marriage to aristocratic Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida, Breillat’s go-to virgin). Wildly entertaining, with its bons mots, reckless trysts and idiosyncratic anachronisms (like La Vellini’s back tattoo—which J. Hoberman identified as her “tramp-stamp”) Une vieille maîtresse quotes from a dizzying array of art and film references, from Michelangelo and Ingres to Barry Lyndon and Alain Cavalier’s Thérèse. “The kind of film that makes you long for the days when libertines and courtesans roamed the great capitals of Europe, leaving behind trails of broken hearts and traces of syphilis everywhere. . . The most explicit part of The Last Mistress remains Breillat’s adaptation itself—drunk on ideas, luxuriating in social rebellion” (Kamal Al-Solaylee, The Globe and Mail). –Tiff Cinémateque
Author and filmmaker Catherine Breillat has gained a reputation as one of the most controversial women in contemporary arts and letters for her work, which often focuses on the erotic and emotional lives of young women, as told from the woman’s perspective. Born in Bressuire, France, in 1948, Breillat developed a reputation for challenging public mores early on; at the age of 17, she published her first novel, L’homme facile, which became a cause célèbre for its blunt language and open depiction of sexual subject matter. The controversy generated by L’homme facile gave Breillat enough recognition that she was able to pursue a career as a writer, and between 1968 and 1975, she published three novels and a stage drama, as well as making her acting debut with a small role in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris. In 1975, Breillat moved behind the camera by writing, designing, and directing Une vraie jeune fille, which was adapted from one of Breillat’s… read more
The pacing can be awkward - it gets off to a slow start, and looses some steam in the last third. But at its best, a mesmerizing, dark tale of lust, passion, and deceit that knows when to be raw and when to be understated. Bolstered by strong performances, including a surprising turn from Asia Argento, this is easily one of Breillat's best films.
We're going to get this year's New York Film Festival wrapped before Christmas. That's a promise. Today, on the occasion of Glenn Kenny's
Above: Dominique Thomas (left) and Lola Creton (right), as Bluebeard and his young bride. Would you expect Catherine Breillat to have something
Each of the Notebook's writers were given the opportunity to submit their ten favorite films of 2008 given at least a week's theatrical run