Thursday, October 16, 2008

London Film Festival Day 2 - LA BELLE PERSONNE

LA BELLE PERSONNE is French auteur Christophe Honoré's loose adaptation of Madame de la Fayette's La Princesse de Clèves. In Honoré's version, the tale of unrequited and unconsummated love takes place in a dreary Parisian high school populated with over-sexed pupils and staff. In uncharacteristically slippery style, Honoré completely side-steps the moral difficulty with teacher-pupil relationships. Indeed, his film has a curious democracy to it - pretty much everyone - young, old, gay, straight - is emotionally wrecked by love.

Léa Seydoux plays the enigmatic Junie who transfers into school and begins a relationship with earnest Otto (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) even though she doesn't really love him. Thereafter she falls for the dishy Italian teacher, Nemours. (Louis Garrel in an unusually low-key performance - and all the better for that). Nemours clears the decks for a relationship with Junie but is curiously resistant to pursuing her. And Junie in turn is sceptical about Nemours' capacity to remain interested once the relationship is consummated - hence an emotional stand-off.

The story is economically told and nicely photographed, and doesn't feel like a TV film that somehow stumbled into a cineplex. However, I have to say that despite all the constant blubbing, I found it to be a rather slight film. I think this is because Honoré has a tendency to compose his films like a series of over-wrought French pop videos. He indulged this fully in LES CHANSONS D'AMOUR but even here, he sometimes seems more interested in the moody close-up than emotional truth. Indeed, it was with great dismay that I found Honoré slipping back into his lip-synching addiction in the most dramatic scene of the film, reducing it to pop video banality.

LA BELLE PERSONNE is a TV movie. It opened last month in France and Germany and played London 2008.

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