Thursday, June 4, 2009
Une vieille maîtresse (An Old Mistress) (2007) - Catherine Breillat
Secrets, rumors and betrayals surround the upcoming marriage between a young dissolute man and virtuous woman of the French aristocracy.
Catherine Breillat's Une Vieille Maitresse ( An Old Mistress) is a period piece, outwardly elegant and set at an almost leisurely pace, but there is yet something sulfurous and unsettling about this exploration of intrigue and romantic addiction.
Breillat has adapted Jules-Amedee Barbey d'Aurevilly's 1865 novel, summoning up a milieu that seems caught between the generations, between dangerous liaisons of the past and sensible alliances of the future.
A young man of 30, Ryno (Fu'ad Ait Aattou) is engaged to marry the beautiful heiress Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida). But there is a complication: the presence of Ryno's mistress, a Spanish firebrand known as La Vellini (Asia Argento). In a lengthy conversation with Hermangarde's grandmother (Claude Sarraute), Ryno attempts to explain the nature of this relationship and assure her (and himself) that it is over - yet it becomes clear that the bond between the pair, the angelic, malleable Ryno and the fiercely assertive Vellini, is far stronger than he is prepared to admit. Argento and Ait Aattou offer contrasting versions of androgyny, and Argento - constantly drawing blood, in one way or another, from the one she loves - is a memorable femme fatale.
An Old Mistress isn't as confronting or transgressive as Romance or Anatomy of Hell, but this is not a diminished Breillat at work - it is still a compelling evocation of intelligence and obsession.