Monday, 17 June 2013

Claude and Aud land a good'un in Landes

After a year of waiting since its premiere at the Cannes Festival last year, I finally got to see Thérèse Desqueyroux. The intimate 'Roxy' screen at the Tyneside Cinema had me feeling as though I was watching it in the comfort of my own home albeit with a few more people than my front room can accommodate. Director Claude Miller died shortly before it premiered and the public has endured a further year before seeing it on general release. It tells the story of Thérèse, daughter of a wealthy landowner from the Landes 'departement' in Aquitaine. Intelligent and headstrong, she believes that marriage to the older brother of her childhood friend Anne, will 'sort her out', that she will become accustomed to the banalities of life as a wife and mother. Jealous of her friend's passionate romance with a young Portuguese man and confined in her marriage to a man content with the union of the two wealthy landowners; he is eager for a child and is happy to play out the expected social conventions of the time, Thérèse is stifled and resorts to desperate measures, but is not necessarily in control of her actions. Beautifully played by Audrey Tautou; she captures the disappointment, bitterness, resignation in the situation in which Thérèse finds herself; Gilles Lellouche as Bernard is an imposing character, and there's delicious eye-candy in the form of Stanley Weber as Anne's Portuguese lover whom some may recognise from the series 'Borgia'. The backdrop to the whole story is the land, around Argelouse in Landes, Aquitaine. Anyone who's visited this area, or even further north into the Gironde or Charante-Maritime will recognise the sandy soil, the pine trees, heather and the lovely blue sea. The houses are stunning, as are the costumes. The film is never loud or showy, it is slow and gentle, but that is all it needs to be. It reminds us that for all the special effects available nowadays, it is still possible to produce a great film without them.

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