If you ever had a doubt that the French are obsessed with love, or at least have a different mindset about all variations: amour fou, fidelity, passion, adultery than we puritanical Americans, check out their movies. On this matter, the French are consistent.
Even in an epic length period drama like The Princess of Montpensier, with its sweeping battle scenes and violence, the love the young woman of the title experiences for Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel), the rakish heartthrob of her youth is what matters most to director Bertrand Tavernier. Adapted from a 16th century 30 page story by Madame de Lafayette, the film also features Lambert Wilson, perhaps the most appealing of French actors (see the very fine Of Gods and Men), as Chabanne, a soldier who transgresses military code by murdering a pregnant woman, driving his long blade through her belly, for which he renounces violence.Most tender are Marie's scenes with Chabanne who instructs her in literature, philosophy, and all mattersof the court.
But as the popular Rendez-vous with French Cinema festival screens in the week ahead, love takes many forms: In the opening night film, Francois Ozon's Potiche, the trophy wife played by Catherine Deneuvein curlers and professing bourgeois bliss, reconnects with an old love, bringing the iconic actress together again with that grand and sexy bear, Gerard Depardieu. When the memory of an old liaison re-ignites their heat, a hilarious moment occurs: she puts him off,"Not at our age."
Most rendez-vous fare is less prudent. In quiet ways, gems such as Love Like Poison, Katell Quillevere's coming of age drama about a 14 year old girl and a choirboy, and Martin Provost's The Long Falling with Yolande Moreau, the story of asmall-town woman who kills her abusive husband, reveal complex shades of the love theme. While Antony Cordier's Happy Few, about two couples who swap while maintaining their own marriages, offers a rare admission for the French: the psychological damage of mixing and matching partners.
Alas, while it is not always certain that French movies will have a U.S. theatrical release, fortunately, some will. Opening soon, Poticheis very funny, often laugh out loud silly, a fun diversion. I simply would not miss The Princess of Montpensier.
This post also appears on Gossip Central.