Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
France, 2000. Dacia Films, Orsans Productions, Les Films du Camélia, Canal+. Based on the play by Marivaux. Cinematography by Romain Winding. Produced by Georges Benayoun. Production Design by Pascale Consigny. Costume Design by Corinne Jorry. Film Editing by Pascale Chavance.
Benoit Jacquot adapts Marivaux’s early eighteenth-century play to film but with its theatrical origins firmly on display. Performed in costume in an empty theatre, it stars Sandrine Kiberlain as a young woman who is promised to caddish Mathieu Amalric, who has already joined himself in a promise to a wealthy countess (Isabelle Huppert). Kiberlain disguises herself as a man to become confidant of Amalric and find out what his deal is, learning that he’d rather marry the younger, richer woman but cannot get out of his engagement to Huppert without a financial penalty. She decides to help him by pretending to seduce Huppert, and you could just imagine the silliness that comes from there. The philosophizing that makes Marivaux’s dialogue so rich is on display here, but Jacquot directs with little panache and keeps all his performers at a low simmer. Huppert is the most lively of the bunch, her fiery eyes and subtle expressions as usual escaping from the muscular control of her face; by comparison, Kiberlain is a muttering hum that comes across as perpetually smug. Setting it in a bare theatre that has no sets or props does not make for a Vanya On 42nd Street experience, and having the actors go into the audience, backstage and through the wings somehow only adds to a feeling of directorial laziness.