Saturday, April 26, 2008

Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon (The Romance of Astrea and Celadon)

Absolutely not for all audiences as the this movie could bore to dead to most viewers, but for those that like Eric Rohmer oeuvre is definitively a must be seen not only because could be his last film (he’s 87 years old) but also because this fidelity themed film is talky yet intelligent as some of his previous films.

This is an earnest adaptation of an early 17th century literary text from Honoré d'Urfé that recounts a story set in 5th century France as imagined in 1607 taking the text and its idealized version of a half-Roman, half-pagan Gaul with a Christian overlay at face value. This is a film about nymphs, druids, shepherds and shepherdess set in a bucolic and mythologized French forest. Also written by Rohmer after a distillation of 5000 pages, tells about beautiful Astrea believing that handsome Celadon cheated on her and she rejecting him, which leads to Celadon suicide attempt, Astrea believing his dead and both Astrea and Celadon becoming devastated by the events until both meet again at Celadon’s helping druid house.

In my opinion the three act film looks and feels like a lighter Shakespearean play performed in an outdoors beautiful stage and the straight-shooting performances are just perfect within this context. Perhaps the first two acts are a little bit slow paced, but if you’re patient you will get to the amazing and somehow hilarious third act where Celadon is forced to dress up as a woman -with braids and lipstick-, forges an intimate friendship with Astrea and ends up kissing her during one intimate girlish sleepover that really look like a true romance between two girls as Celadon in drag becomes a very beautiful and attractive girl. Honestly the third act was absolutely glorious!

Performed by unknown actors –which is common in Rohmer films- Andy Gillet Celadon’s is impeccable with Stéphanie Crayencour Astrea also being quite impressive. The movie was premiered in competition at the 2007 Venice Film Festival and also in the 2008 Rotterdam International Film Festival; Andy Gillet won the Best Male Newcomer at the 2008 Etoiles d’Or.

I liked the movie quite a lot, but after reading non-European viewer’s comments I believe this is suited mostly to those that like to see classic plays-alike films and those that have seen Rohmer’s previous movies with similar adaptations from classic French literature.


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