Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:48 am 
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An elegant 18th-century moralistic tale whose motivations remain a bit vague

Emmanuel Mouret's Mademoiselle de Joncquières is a decided contrast to the director's delicate and playful Shall We Kiss?, which I reviewed eleven years ago. It's like a pared-down version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (but based on in a story in Denis Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist instead of Choderlos de Laclos renowned and complex epistolary novel) and stars Édouard Baer and Cécile de France as an 18th-century rake and the sophisticate, burned when he drops her, who takes revenge by bating him with a beautiful virgin who really isn't. It's a beautiful film with some good lines but I feel the casting is off. De France is trying hard to be beautiful but not hard enough to be mean. Baer is an appealing actor but that's the problem, not enough edge. Forget this and watch either Vadim's 1959 Dangerous Liaisons or Frears' 1988 English-language one, one of my favorite films of the Eighties. Watched at UGC Danton 24 October 2018. AlloCiné press rating 3.9, showing that the French critics were generally quite favorable.

Rewatched as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center 2019. The audience was large and the reaction positive. The film is pleasing - and efficient: Mouret wastes no time in delivering the succession of scenes and dialogue. However the impression remains strong that the main characters are too pleasing and bland, the action too predictable. It's hard to see complexity or meanness in either of them. And hence the motivations feel more theoretical than visceral. it is all a - very beautiful and graceful - going through the motions. But the film is finely made, the mise-en-scène handsome from first to last. And the mimicry of elaborately polite 18th-century French conversation is patient and consistent, both in the writing and in the actors' attempted delivery. And yet, the appreciation of all these elements cannot lessen, but only increase, one's sense that something essential is missing that would give this real logic and bite appropriate to the period so attractively recreated in the settings and costumes.


The Art of Seduction/Mademoiselle de Joncquières, 110 mins., debuted at Toronto, then Busan and Gothenberg, last fall and early 2019. Initially watched in Paris Oct. 2018. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

Rendez-Vous Showtimes:
Friday, March 1, 9:00pm (Q&A with Emmanuel Mouret and Edouard Baer)
Monday, March 4, 4:00pm

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