Saturday, March 17, 2012

BEL AMI - corruption and decadence in fin-de-siecle Paris

Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, better known as theatre company Cheek by Jowl, have brought a gorgeous new adaptation Guy de Maupassant novel, BEL AMI to the big screen. Rachel Bennette's adaptation is faithful to the spiky, scabrous, but ultimately tragic tale of a a young man's corrupt rise to power in decadent, politically slippery late nineteenth century Paris.  The result is a film that begins as a beautifully costumed frothy, sexy, jaunt but slowly and satisfyingly develops into a much darker, deeper film.  I thoroughly enjoyed it - luxuriating in Odile Dicks-Mireaux's wonderful costumes and Stefano Falivene's cinematography.   But most of all, I enjoyed the quality of the ensemble cast.  Robert Pattinson is genuinely impressive and charismatic as social-climbing, narcissistic, capricious George Duroy, an ex-soldier who arrives in Paris without a penny and shamelessly uses his contacts, and their wives sexual frustration, to his advantage.  (It is a far more credible transition to post-franchise adult drama than Daniel Radcliffe achieved.)  But the real fun comes with the three women who Duroy exploits. The first is pretty little housewife Clotilde, played with infinite vulnerability and subtlety by Christina Ricci in heart-breaking performance.  The second is Kristin Scott Thomas' pious, pathetic Virginie, wife of Colm Meaney's newspaper editor.  It is rare to see Scott Thomas look undone by love, as opposed to her characteristic froideur and supreme control, but she is completely convincing.  And finally, there is Uma Thurman as the beautiful, brilliant Madeleine Forrestier - in what is surely a career-best performance. Thurman is simply maginificent.  She perfectly articulates the constrictions placed on an intelligent political woman in an era when she had to exercise her influence through men.  The resulting film, and tragedy, is as much Madeleine's as Georges', and I would love to see Thurman offered more roles like this.

BEL AMI played German 2012 and is on release in the UK, Portugal, Belgium, Lithuania, Ireland and the UK. It opens on the 22nd March in the Czech Republic, it opens on 29th March in Russia, Singapore and Estonia, on 5th April in the Netherlands, on 13th April in Italy, on 26th April in Germany, on 24th May in Australia, on 8th June in the USA, on 27th June in France and on 18th October in Argentina.

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