Catherine Breillat’s bracing explorations of female mythologies find epic resonance in her latest film. The Sleeping Beauty sees the eminent filmmaker working at the height of her powers, something those fortunate enough to have seen her beguiling canon at TIFF Cinematheque this summer have already experienced.
Astonishing landscapes that circumnavigate the globe, and a dizzying mix of historical periods, provide a backdrop for the little girl at the film’s centre. Breillat’s cinematographic eye has rarely been expressed on such a large canvas or with such razor-sharp intent.
The beginning is pure fairytale and recalls her previous outing, Blue Beard, in its simplicity and sense of foreboding. A young princess is the subject of a tug-of-war among witches, as each struggles to find the suitable antidote to a death sentence inculcated by an evil sister. The well-known story ensues and Breillat integrates into the narrative various worldwide mythologies about little girls in peril. The heroine finds her way back into civilization both through her dreams and through wilful projection. A particularly poignant chapter finds her ensconced in a conventional family, in love with an older boy and cared for by a loving adopted mother. Lest we forget, this is a Breillat film, so the happiness cannot last. The boy abandons the heroine and her quest to regain his love leads into scenes both real and imagined. These situations recall the more harrowing moments of Breillat’s legendary À ma sœur!, and her early masterwork Une vraie jeunne fille. Breillat also borrows bizarre tropes from other ancient tales, infusing the panoply of characters with albino rulers, dwarf station masters, gypsy bandits and enchanted animals.
Few filmmakers find such imaginative methods to explore such complex and difficult political terrain. Breillat is simply one of the most intriguing and surprising filmmakers working today and The Sleeping Beauty is a fascinating testament to her abilities. –TIFF
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… read more
not quite as fun as "bluebeard," but still a compelling and enjoyably opaque retelling of a children's story. and like "bluebeard," breillat gets fantastic performances out of children, focusing more on the amoral freedom that comes prior to coded, adult sexuality. breillat is pretty pessimistic about the ramifications of sex, but unlike a lot of her ilk, she still treats it with kink and fascination. works for me.
In our annual poll, we pair our favorite new films of 2011 with older films seen in the same year to create fantastic double features.
Catherine Breillat’s second entry in her trilogy based on fairy tales should be placed among her greatest works.
"It was Truffaut," noted Laura Barton in a profile for the Guardian last year, "who said she had to be unlocked; that there was in her
0845 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (Tsui Hark, China) In marked contrast to Takashi Miike’
"Following her typically idiosyncratic revision of Bluebeard, Gallic helmer Catherine Breillat fractures another fairy tale with The Sleeping