Time Out New York Project: Issue #756, March 25–31, 2010
Dir. Catherine Breillat. 2009. N/R. 80mins. In French, with subtitles. Dominique Thomas, Lola Créton, Lola Giovannetti, Daphné Baiwir, Marilou Lopes-Benites.
French filmmaker Catherine Breillat (The Last Mistress) takes an unabashedly sincere approach to Charles Perrault’s enduring fable of a curious girl (Créton) married to a mysterious Goliath (Thomas) with a dungeon full of secrets. It’s a children’s story with real bite, and the director’s video-sourced visuals — favoring chaste, storybook compositions — give loving life to the tale that she has acknowledged as a formative influence.
Those concerned that Breillat has tempered her provocateur’s flair will be appeased the moment Créton’s precocious Marie-Catherine wishes blasphemous ill on the Mother Superior who expels both her and her older sister, Marie-Anne (Giovannetti), from a convent. She spouts childish curses that are deeply unsettling in light of her outwardly unspoiled innocence. And whenever this petite-framed adolescent nuzzles against Thomas’s hulking Bluebeard, the film pulsates with danger and possibility.
A parallel narrative in which another pair of sisters (Baiwir and Lopes-Benites) read Bluebeard to each other adds a few more complicating layers, their fun-and-games scare session ending in tragedy when the fictional horrors leap off the page. The most impressive aspect of Breillat’s feature is that it agitates like the best fairy tales, seducing us with otherworldliness before sticking the knife in and permanently inscribing the moral.—Keith Uhlich