The Duchess of Langeais

"Excellent"

The Duchess of Langeais Review


It's no mystery that men and women do unconscionable things in the name of love, but the way French-new-waver Jacques Rivette plays it in his adaptation of Balzac's Don't Touch the Axe, you would think it was an epidemic.

Titled The Duchess of Langeais, Rivette's Restoration anti-romance takes the structure of a courtship between General Montriveau (Guillaume Depardieu), a celebrated war hero, and Antoinette (the astounding Jeanne Balibar), the titular married coquette, in the early 19th-century. At a ball in the upper echelons of French society, Antoinette becomes intrigued by the stoic Montriveau even before she meets him. Despite his lack of game, the general entices the married duchess with stories of his wartime campaigns. A student of Bonaparte, Montriveau becomes infatuated with Antoinette, who, in turn, begins to strategically toy with her soldier-in-waiting.

Antoinette's orchestration of her manipulative games with the general becomes the film's sole point of study early in the movie. The duchess finds the games a proper way of solidifying a man's intentions, even if the glint in her eye lets on that she enjoys it a bit too much. Uncompromisingly cruel, she leads the socially aloof general deeper into her parlor without the notion that he will eventually resist. He does, eventually, and the duchess' yearning for him leads to a grandiose set of spectacles that culminate at a nunnery in Spain.

Spectacle is just Rivette's point. Romance, as he puts it, boils down to mere theatrics: flares of pseudo-restraint, sexual innuendo, religion, and a bounty of other dreamt-up moments of hesitancy. A byproduct of the straightforward demands of the French military, Montriveau blindly stumbles into the traps that the duchess sets up, only to recant his emotions and then be coaxed back in. Rivette, 79 years old and sharp as ever, envisions these thrusts and parries of pride and uncertainty with patience, literary flair and just a dash of humor. His ability to map out the process of courtship here is just as meticulous and careful as his mapping of the artistic process in La Belle Noiseuse.

The title of Balzac's story comes from a line uttered by the general as Antoinette coyly teases his jealousy with her friend. It comes off as both threat and warning, coinciding with the brooding horrors that lie underneath Depardieu's strained face. The actor, son of the great Gerard Depardieu, works with the general's awkward behavior only to be continually upstaged by Balibar. Cruel and cold in the warmest of ways, Balibar gracefully sketches and colors in the trajectory not only of the duchess' need for ultimate confirmation but of her final inability to coax the general back. It's as much about the candid photos on the cover of People and the squabbling trysts of Rock of Love as it is the ice-veined couplings of the Bourbon Dynasty. Rivette's film so completely ousts love and romance as a mere act that you expect curtains to sweep in at the end.

Aka Ne touchez pas la hache.

Nobody's giving my duchess a foot massage.



The Duchess of Langeais

Facts and Figures

Run time: 137 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 28th March 2007

Distributed by: IFC First Take

Production compaines: Arte France Cinema, Pierre Grise Productions, Cinemaundici

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Fresh: 46 Rotten: 20

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Roberto Cicutto, , Luigi Musini, ,

Starring: as Antoinette de Langeais, as Armand de Montriveau, as Princess de Blamont-Chauvry, as Vidame de Pamiers, Anne Cantineau as Clara de Serizy, Thomas Durand as De Marsay, Nicholas Bouchaud as De Trailles, Mathias Jung as Julien, Julie Judd as Lisette, Victoria Zinny as Le Mere superieure, as Le confesseur au couvent, Beppe Chierici as L'alcade, Paul Chevillard as Duc de Navarreins, as Duc de Grandlieu, Birgit Ludwig as Dianne de Maufrigneuse, as Abbe Gondrand, Claude Delaugerre as Auguste, Marc Barbé as Marquis de Ronquerolles

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.