Monday, June 02, 2008

Ne Touchez Pas Le Hache (Don’t Touch The Axe)

All right I’m going to tell you about some films that I saw recently. The first is this French film by Jacques Rivette that is a very close adaptation to Honoré de Balzac novel La Duchesse de Langeais which is part of Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine. So you can imagine that this is a very classical French film.

The film tells the unconsummated love between the Duchess of Lageais (Jeanne Balibar) a married temptress and Napoleonic war hero, general Armand de Montriveau (Guillaume Depardieu) that happens in the time of Restoration Paris in the early 1800’s. The film starts when Montriveau finally founds the Duchess in Mallorca and then goes back to tell how they met and started the cat-mouse chase.

The film looks and feels like a theater stage play and basically is full of verbal wordplay between the main characters. In cinematic terms is a film that really has a bare mise-en-scene which may bore some viewers and if you do not enjoy word exchanges done in an old fashion way (that in today’s eyes and ears could look and sound like silly jousting) then you have to avoid this film.

I could not say that I enjoyed the film (I'm familiar with the story) as besides telling the story with almost faithful recreation of the book lines, it does not bring much else to the screen and viewers pleasure. But there is one thing that allowed me to endure the lengthy film; Guillume Depardieu performance was truly worth watching.

The film has been around the fest circuit since it premiered in competition at the 2007 Berlinale and if you browse the blog you’ll find most of the nominations it has.

Absolutely not for all audiences, you have to like classical theater alike movies with wordplays and filmed in epic dimensions. I watched the complete movie even if it was difficult at times, but in general I think that I enjoyed more Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon that at least has more outdoor scenes.

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