Sunday, November 11, 2007

An Old Mistress (Catherine Breillat, 2007)

****
France/Italy


When you consider Catherine Breillat's preferred mode of archness and formalism, the period melodrama seems like not only a natural arena but almost an extension of her personality. Though it's less confrontational and explicit than in her previous films, her fascination with transgression and sexuality is no less trenchant when framed against a society built on outwardly strict and rigorous codes and conventions. Her observations lose none of their relevance or pointed precision for being fluffed up in starched collars and ballgowns. But they do gain a depth and resonance for being defined against a field of absorbing, volatile and complex emotions.
Fu'ad Ait Aattou plays a notorious libertine reflecting on his ten-year affair with tempestuous kept-woman Asia Argento on the eve of his commitment to a pretty, accommodating young lady with a title. Argento lacks the maturity the role demands but has the brazenness to compensate. Aattou is equipped with enormous, highly photogenic lips to distract from his vacant, vacant eyes. Claude Sarraute and Yolande Moreau are both delightful as veteran socialites.

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