Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:35 am 
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An 18th-century play in modern dress

Swiss filmmaker Luc Bondy died in 2015 shortly after directing this dryly "opened up" version of the Marivaux play that the same cast, in the same period, was performing in his production at the Théâtre de l'Odéon, in Paris. Much of the filming was done in the handsome, austere corridors of the Théâtre de l'Odéon; on a terrace; in the nearby Luxembourg Gardens. Alas though it is often beautiful to look at this effort falls flat, doubly so for American audiences. The 18th-century habits of thought and manners do not translate to the 21th-century global superstar world the filming and casting evoke; and the English subtitles drain away the color of the original language the soundtrack retains.

It was never shown in French movie theaters, only on TV (Arte; TV5), and distributing it at US arthouses is a doomed effort. On the big screen, even with ith its light, hazy cinematography, the rich simplicity of the found "sets," and Isabelle Huppert's to-die-for outfits, up close she still looks obviously too old for her thirty-something rich young widow character Araminte, and she struggles bravely to walk in a pair of very high very tight shoes - even down several flights of stone stairs: ouch! As Dorante, the handsome young formerly rich man newly engaged to be her secretary, Louis Garrel, playing it straighter than usual, doesn't look quite as young as the part calls for either, but still looks good. The iconic Bulle Ogier, playing Araminte's mother, Madame Argante, comes and goes from time to time dressed as a timeless celebrity in full length white fur coat and granny shades. There are other servant characters - they're the ones who do the romance-making with their fake confidences - and, of course Jean-Pierre Malo as Count Dorimont.

Dorimont is a pivotal but uninteresting character. As played here he's a large but almost nonexistent man, a rich nobleman, obviously, whom Araminte is scheduled to marry to resolve a legal dispute that might be disastrous for her if it went to court. There is a young woman, Marton (the uninteresting Manon Combes) proposed for Dorante by his uncle, but Dorante falls for Araminte - or does he only think he does? In an interview for Télérama with Garrel and Huppert, Garrel says what struck him about the play was that it's a romance where the characters are wondering whether they're in love or not. As so often in old plays jazzed up by moving them to (neutral) modern settings, we don't know quite what's going on.

Avoid this movie - or, if you're a student of 18th-century French theater, especially Marivaux, find a home-viewing copy of it with French subtitles instead of English ones and study it closely. These are good actors. (The French admire Marivaux much more than outsiders do.)

False Confessions/Les Fausses Confidences, 82 mins., was shot in 2015 but shown on TV 9 Mar. 2017. Not distributed theatrically in France. Its festival debut at Locarno was 6 Aug. 2016; French DVD release 7 Mar. 2017. US theatrical release (NYC) 14 July 2017. Screened for this review at Landmark Albany Twin Theater on its opening day there, 11 Aug. 2017.

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