Une Vieille Maîtresse (The Last Mistress) (An Old Mistress) Reviews
in a nutshell, the tale goes like this: a penniless libertine swoons a beautiful chaste woman of higher birth, the jewel of french aristocracy, but he has a hard time terminating his 10 year affair with a wild gypsy-like she-devil, a seed of illegitimate union(princess and matador). the male libertine deserts his mistress for the virginal lily, and he believes he's whole-heartedly in love, then this gluttonish she-devil traces him to his newlywed chateau to re-kindle their illict sparkle. then the man succumbs...later, his wife discovers then has a miscarriage by broken-heart. eventually the libertine has ruined the happiness of his precious wife as everyone predicts. the classic quotation here would be "in love, the first to suffer has lost"....
undoubtedly, the she-devil is played by the notably spunky italian actress asia argento who's been taking roles of brave indiscreet women since the 90s, her smashing performance in 1998 "b monkey",,,then her role is always tough woman-rebel or daredevil whore...i've always been amazed by her gritty beauty, and i've never found any character she performed abrasive despite the inevitably repeated typecasting until the moment after i watched "the last mistress"...her interpretion is fine and perhaps argento is the only actress who could render this role due to her winsome features which are literily designed for this role. but i've got to admit, asia argento's no longer the same fresh-faced ingenuine who toys between reckless seductiveness and brittle naivete that i saw 10 years ago in her american debute "b monkey"...she's upgraded into a more spiteful lilith-like being who ruminates and devours in full masterful manipulation in catherine breillant's "the last mistress" which definitely decreases her likability.(or she just ain't that gorgeous as she was in 1998?)
the castings of the leads are absolutely a gallery of striking fair youth, and the male protagonist has a pair of juicy smackable lips, eyes of sheer transparent blue, and skin made of milky streaks of porcelain, same for the blonde-haired woman-protagonist, so statuesque like people who stride out of europe's classical paintings. somehow that makes the setting even more peculiar and oddly persuasive, accompanied by such cherishable beauty, you would still like to cheat with a third party who may not rival your wife? perhaps the ignition of lust could surpass any romantic sentimentality you've been deeply inspired. the director's camera frame has manifested well on that by a shot of the man's wedding ring and the illict woman's snake-shaped bracelet.
this movie's made with some refinement which surprises me since it's done by the same brazen woman who chooses to bare a vaginal frontal scene and have his lead woman sex with a real porn actor in "romance"...but honestly i'm still deeply annoyed by her sexual politics in this latest movie of hers. why, as a woman, she has to be so tremendously selfish just for the sake of shameless unbridled freedom even it would cause pain to others??? it even features one scene where argento's character smirks at the cornered seat of church when the man's wedding is to be proceed on with some drab bliblical admonisments for marital virtues on women as if she lures the man just to defy church out of taunting contempt...would she care the other party which's never done any damage to her? personally if that's the necessary attitude to pronounce your feminist right, it's better to have no part of it when your blissful emancipation has to be built by the sacrifice of those irrelevant people. wouldn't woman, in this case, just descends into the accomplice of man to wreck other woman's life?
[font=Century Gothic]Just because Catherine Breillat, the high priestess of provocation, has made a sumptuous but talky(so much so that she gets dangerously close to Eric Rohmer territory.) period piece with "The Last Mistress" does not mean that she is making a bid for respectability which puts her on the same level with her heroine, who she has quite a bit of sympathy for. In 19th century Paris, Vellini, 36, is beyond the age when any reputable woman should be married. The fact that she is also promiscuous, fond of sex, smokes cigars, leaves and departs the opera when it pleases her and on one very special occasion, dresses in men's clothes makes her a further outcast amongst the nobility that she socializes with. Breillat takes her story and uses it to explore the notion of love outside of marriage. Now, if only she had an actress with more talent than presence in the lead role.[/font]
Gone for the moment are the easy provocations and in their place a more mature, subdued autopsy of the sexual politics that are Breillats stock in trade.
The images have a casual loveliness reminescent of ken russell or derek jarman's approach to costume drama, asia argento is at her caged animal best and fu'ad aattou is channeling a young mick jagger of sorts.
I'm unfamiliar with director Catherine Breillat previous works. I've heard that she's a famous feminist director. This movie is based on Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly's novel and is an erotic french costume drama. As I'm a big fan of Asia Argento's movies, I couldn't pass this up.
Ryno de Marigny (Fu'ad Ait Aattou) is an infamous libertine and has been engaged to a beautiful, virginal, rich, aristocrat, Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida). All of Paris is astounded that this marriage is doomed. The Viscont de Prony (Michael Lonsdale) and his Wife have been warning Hermangarde's Grandmother, the Marquise de Flers (Claude Sarraute) of Ryno's 10 year affair with Vellini Annesley(Asia Argento).
The worldly Marquise de Flers is aware that most marriages don't last 10 years and asks Ryno to explain his affair with Vellini before she can consent to the upcoming wedding. Ryno is perfectly candid, spending most of the night telling her every sordid detail of their torrid love affair. Of course, we're able to see everything too. Somehow, he is able to convince her that he and Vellini are over.
Both Ryno and Vellini are oddly androgynous to each other, with Ryno a swollen-lipped, soft, pale-skinned romantic and Vellini a capricious, cigar-smoking, sexually aggressive temptress. They are obviously drawn to each other, although can it still be considered love?
Perhaps, I'm too infatuated with Asia Argento, but I can see where Ryno is coming from, and I really enjoyed this film.
For a guy, it's horror; for a girl, it's comedy. That alone makes this one worth a place in some kind of almanac. And yet, it's unlikely Guinness is interested...Their loss.
THE LAST MISTRESS 75%
French genius Catherine Breillat treats thinking like full body activity -- costumes are rich, relationships are messy and politics are (as always) strikingly sexual.
SEX AND THE CITY 50%
I could go on about the politics of treating sex like a commodity or the implausibility of a journalist owning a closet full of Manholos, but in the end this tidy, glossy, highly commercial, death knell to feminism makes me inexplicably happy. It doesn't help me feel good about myself, but it makes me happy.
GIRL CUT IN TWO 79%
Gabrielle Snow (Ludivine Sagnier) is forced to trade love for "appropriate" companionship and loses majorly in the bargain. No one ever comes out and says society's arbitrary rules are tearing her apart; instead (because French Master Claude Chabrol likes to be a snarky bastad) a magician puts her in a sawing box.
THE BANK JOB 78%
A team of quirky thieves take a bank and (mostly) get away with it -- because the British government of the time is as upright as the FBI ala the Coen Bros. When a robber defends himself with a brick from the foundation of an historic building you can't help sensing politics in (wait for it) "full swing."
ON BROADWAY (insufficient reviews for tomatometer)
Of the puddle of smaller Indies, this one stood out from the fold. About a handful of Bostonians (led by a New Kid on the Block, Joey McIntyre) who put on a play in a pub, On Broadway is quietly and pragmatically about the risk of being creative, the importance of culture and the joy of beer. It'll play you like a fiddle.
SHOTGUN STORIES 72%
It's a mystery to me how this film is simultaneously mythopoetic and understated. In fact, much of the film is somehow confounding and that's its strong suit. Well, that and Michael Shannon -- who's surprisingly hot.
It doesn't hold a candle to Rob Epstein's The Times of Harvey Milk (could director Gus Van Sant have underplayed out of respect?), yet Milk is so clearly a love poem to the activist spirit you can't help falling for it.
Ready the hankies.
GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON 86%
I like weirdos.
TROPIC THUNDER 83%
Kinda breaks tradition with my girly proclivities but it's wicked funny!