Benoît Jacquot France, 2000 Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Marianne Denicourt, Jeanne
Balibar, Grégoire Colin, Isild Le Besco, Jean-Pierre Cassel
This is Benoît Jacquot's latest film. Now on him, I run
hot and cold. Some of his work is outstanding ("L'Ecole
de la chair", for example), but much is far too timid
like last year's limp "Pas de scandale". So this
wasn't my first choice, nor my friend Harry's (with whom I
saw it), but it filled a time slot, and Daniel Auteuil is in
That ringing endorsement aside, it was not as bad as you
might expect. It's a good-looking costume biopic which
follows the Marquis DeSade (Auteuil) during his imprisonment
at a country estate during the terror of Robespierre at the
end of the 18th century. There he meets the young Emilie
(Isild Le Besco) whom he charms. Stuff happens, people lose
their heads to the guillotine blade, heads and then the
credits roll. It's all pretty straightforward character drama
with maybe three characters developed: Sade, Emilie, and the
mother of Sade's son, Madame Quesnet (Marianne Dennicourt),
though between Madame Quesnet and Emilie, maybe it's just 2½
Jacquot and Le Besco were at the screening.
Q: (To Jacquot) Was the movie derived from any of
Sade's writing in particular?
A: No, though the dialog was inspired by his letters to his
wife which started before the period of the film.
Q: (To Le Besco)Was doing the scene of
Emilie's 'first time' (with a man) difficult for you? A: No, not difficult. Embarrassing. It's a job, and
sometimes you have to do things you don't really like, but
that's OK. I was paid for it.
Q: (To Jacquot) Why did you take this approach to the
story [of just covering his years in prison]? A: I did that I thought no one would expect. That's how
I like to approach films.
Cast: Dan Futterman, Alan Cumming, Matt Keeslar, Josh
Hamilton, Lothaire Bluteau
I chatted with a fellow festival goes for a while before
the film started. Joined by the bond of having some of the
worst seats in the house (front row, to the side), we swapped
horror stories about the festival. He recounted Paul
Schrader's film from last year ("Forever Mine"?)
which was just stinko. When the lights came up, there was
only a light smattering of applause. What an embarrassment.
Lucky for this screening, the VIP reserved seats were opened
up at the last minute, and we were ushered to them in great
style and comfort.
This didn't help the film, however, which I can rate only
with a shrug. Actually, this is a tough film to review
because it has some things going for it that I don't want to
Lothaire Bluteau plays a
street person and is just great. But his was a small
part so you don't see him much.
The film looked
great (the photography). Considering that it was made
for about $200,000 USD, that's not bad at all.
Even though it was
adapted from a play, it didn't show. That's really
rare, as most adaptations still retain a confined
However, my usual complaints about first films apply:
Cut, cut, cut. The
opening sequence seemed to be filler for the credits
which went on longer than those for the first
"Superman" movie (1978).
The storytelling was
slack. While you are not supposed to understand
everything as the film unspools, there's no need to
keep rubbing my nose in incomprehensible flashbacks.
The film is sprinkled
with people's recollections of urban legends. Perhaps
it was supposed to lend structure to the film, but it
just didn't work for me. I've heard them all before,
and they didn't serve to illuminate the characters or
to drive the story.
Director Jon Shear was on hand to talk about the movie.
He's a very chatty fellow who had us all cup our hands an
"Boo" before the screening so he could send a photo
back to his mom who was quite excited that her son was going
to Canada where the people are "so well behaved."