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« Painter of the Indistinct | Main | At Mark Sisson's »

September 09, 2009

DVD Journal: "Gilles' Wife"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --


Emmanuelle Devos plays a loving working-class wife and mother in a small city in 1930s France who begins to suspect that something's not quite right in her marriage.

Directed by Frederic Fonteyne, "Gilles' Wife" initially seems about as undramatic as can be. It's a very slow, very deliberate, very beautiful accumulation of sensory details and psychological moments.

(Filmgeeks may be reminded of a cross between the austere experimentalism of "Jeanne Dielman" and the impressionism of "Elvira Madigan.")

But this study of domesticity and infidelity sucked me in and fascinated me. If it works for you as it did for me, you'll find that despite its quiet and oblique ways it accumulates terrific power. The details convince on what feels like a pre-verbal level, and Fonteyne and Devos are quite amazing in the ways they find to convey this inarticulate woman's intuitions and discoveries, and their effects on her.

I recommend Fonteyne's 1999 "An Affair of Love" too. It stars Nathalie Baye as a lonely middle-aged woman -- I suppose that her character qualifies as a cougar, though I don't think the term was around in the late '90s -- treating herself to an affair with a studly, if similarly lonely, younger guy. Don't be afraid -- the film isn't "empowering" or "political" in that rousing and inane American way. It's a melancholy-yet-erotic entry in the small, stylishly "objective," psychological-study French mode -- a beautiful example of the kind of film that Woody Allen wishes he could make.

Fast-Forwarding Score: Not a painstaking, crystalline moment



posted by Michael at September 9, 2009


Devos was pretty amazing in KINGS AND QUEEN too.

Posted by: Steve W on September 9, 2009 6:47 PM

"An Affair of Love" sounds terrific. French movies are by, for, and about adults. American movies, even the very good ones, tend to have a strong element of juvenile wish fulfillment.

Posted by: MQ on September 9, 2009 7:51 PM

"the film isn't "empowering" or "political" in that rousing and inane American way": that reminds me of a sally that I read recently - "...smartly written, in the utterly superficial yet irresistible way metropolitan Americans think sophisticated..."

Posted by: dearieme on September 10, 2009 7:12 AM

If Nathalie Baye in An Affair of Love is qualified as a cougar, Pupu is no longer fearful of reaching her cougarhood.

Posted by: Pupu on September 10, 2009 9:44 PM

Nathalie Baye in Venus Beauty Salon plays a somewhat messed up character who gets involved with a younger man played by the actor who was the archaeologist / master swordsman / roue / lawyer / mercenary / friend to the Red Man in The Hour of the Wolf. Nathalie was incredibly sexy and I've been smitten with her ever since.

Nathalie Baye is not a cougar. She's too French. Only American women can age into crass, so desperate, with their strange staring eyes and bared-teeth smiles. Nathalie Baye is only a cougar in the sense that, unlike the American version, she's both feline and dangerous.

Nathalie Baye. Purrrrrrrr.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 12, 2009 8:52 PM

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