Bluebeard [barbe Bleue]

"Very Good"

Bluebeard [barbe Bleue] Review


Murky and cold, this retelling of the fairy tale has an effectively grim tone that cleverly plays with our expectations while examining some provocative themes. But it's not very engaging.

Sisters Anne (Baiwir then Giovannetti) and Catherine (Lopes-Benites then Creton) have grown up with the legend of local nobleman Bluebeard (Thomas), who notoriously marries pubescent girls who then go missing. As Catherine recounts the story to her sister, she imagines herself as one of Bluebeard's young brides, taken into his castle, where she demands her own bedroom until she comes of age. She also begins to wonder what happened to the women who came before her, and considers violating her husband's trust to find out the truth.

Breillat's usual themes are strongly present in this lush and dense fable, as she probes issues of power in society. The main struggle here is for women in a male-dominated household, but it's much more complex than that, as Bluebeard turns out to be a strangely modern man whose only real expectation is the loyalty of his wife. Even stronger is the issue of justice, with the wealthy lording their prosperity over the desperate poor.

The production design is clammy and often quite grisly, immersing us in the period. Clearly Breillat is trying to put on screen the full sense of living in a fairy tale. We're never quite sure if Catherine is actually having these experiences or just imagining them as a little girl fabricating the story for her sister. Perhaps both are taking place here, and this enigmatic style is one thing that does catch our imagination, even when the plot lurches to a rather sudden conclusion.

Throughout the story, Breillat finds moments of steely wit that vividly depict the strength of character, particularly for Catherine, who quietly refuses to meekly become yet another of Bluebeard's missing wives. This lets the cast members create intriguing characters who hold our interest even though the film feels almost painfully dry and quiet. And it's a bit odd that in the end it's Bluebeard who catches our sympathy as a rather hapless man just trying to find a woman he can trust.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Producer: Sylvette Frydman, Jean-Francois Lepetit

Also starring:

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