Thursday, February 18, 2010

PIFF Day 8 - French film day

Director Catherine Breillat is known for provocative films about female experience (e.g., "The Last Mistress"). Her latest is "Bluebeard" (7), a retelling of a classic French fairy tale about a mysterious, rich, blue-bearded ogre whose young wives keep disappearing. He takes a new wife, who is innocent and not afraid of him and even likes his blue beard. They get along well until he goes away and leaves her a set of keys to everything in his castle but forbids her to use one of the keys. Of course she can't resist . . . .

Breillat's retelling is brief, simple, and potent. Along with the fairy tale she includes another story of two sisters, the younger and brighter of whom enjoys spooking her older sister by telling her the old fairy tale. It's an interesting device, and like the fairy tale itself, contains lots of interesting nuggets about the workings of the unconscious, about female power, and about the risks of looking at what is hidden. Maybe not for everyone, but fun for the literary folks among us.

On the other hand, "The Girl on the Train" (5) left me frustrated. Based on a famous incident in France in which a Gentile girl lied about being the victim of an anti-Semitic hate crime, the film seems at first as though it is going to round out the story and illuminate the girl's psyche and the reverberations the story had with the French public. Yet, despite a long build-up to the lying incident, it still seems to come out of nowhere, though the film lays down enough groundwork that I sensed the director was convinced that he had made more sense of the story than he actually had. I don't mind the girl's motives remaining inscrutable, but the problem for me was that I didn't believe she would do what she did. The reaction of her boyfriend to an earlier crisis also didn't really ring true for me.

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