Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
France, 1991 . MK2 Productions, CED Productions, FR3 Films Production, Canal+, Le Club des Investisseurs, Credit Lyonnais, Conseil Général de l’Eure, Conseil Régional de Haute Normandie. Screenplay by Claude Chabrol, based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert. Cinematography by Jean Rabier. Produced by Marin Karmitz. Music by Jean-Michel Bernard, Matthieu Chabrol, M.J. Coignard-Helison. Production Design by Michele Abbe-Vannier. Costume Design by Corinne Jorry. Film Editing by Monique Fardoulis. Academy Awards 1991. Golden Globe Awards 1991.
Claude Chabrol abandons the sleek modern style that has made him so popular over the decades and directs a period film based on one of France’s most widely read novels. Not one to play with convention, he also casts an actress in the lead role who is the complete opposite of Gustave Flaubert’s literary heroine: the fantastic, unstoppable Isabelle Huppert. She plays the French village girl who catches the fancy of a town doctor and marries him before moving to his home and realizes that life as a doctor’s wife isn’t as high-class and glamorous as she had hoepd. Settling her disappointment in lovers and debts, her unsteady character and wanton ways with money eventually catch up with her and she finds herself in some deep trouble. Where Flaubert’s Emma Bovary was a young, teenaged fool whose head was filled with too many stories from magazines, Huppert’s version of the role is a mature, grown-up spinster who sees her marriage to the doctor as a way to escape the boredom of her single life. Something about casting an actress so unlike the written version of the character just makes her a lot more appealing and sympathetic. Aiding Huppert’s fantastic performance is a great supporting cast and a beautiful collection of sumptuous period costumes by Corrine Jorry.