Thursday, May 01, 2008

Breillat's astounding new film "The Last Mistress" premieres at the 51st SFIFF

“I detest anything feminine, except in men, of course,” remarks La Villini (Asia Argento), the ravenous center of Catherine Breillat’s glorious new film, "The Last Mistress" based on the controversial novel by 19th century author and dandy Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly. The alluringly vulpine Villini is the Spanish mistress of Parisian roué Ryno de Marigny (striking newcomer Fu’ad Ait Aattouto) and the rude, sensual, commanding counterpart to his foppish, bee-stung beauty. Their ten-year affair is about to come to an end with the now-penniless Ryno’s marriage to the pure and well-placed Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida)—that is, if he can resist Villini’s savage love. . . Known for her fearlessly candid explorations of female sexuality in such films as Fat Girl and Brief Crossing (SFIFF 2002), Breillat’s triumphant foray into period drama proves a rigorously unsentimental, frankly erotic and very funny work. Ironically, it is the figures of old age, those for whom sex is the still-felt lost limb, who propel the story with their vaguely prurient curiosity, irrepressible gossip and patronage—the indulgent Marquise de Flers (Claude Sarraute), her friend the Comtesse d’Artelles (Yolande Moreau) and witty Vicomte de Prony (Michael Lonsdale). In them we see the truth in La Villini’s prediction that “there will be no end to what exists between M. de Marigny and me.” Arguably Breillat’s most accessible film, this sophisticated chamber piece is as ravishingly entertaining as it is supremely intelligent.

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