Augustine (2013)

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After suffering an inexplicable seizure which leaves her paralyzed on her right side,19-year-old illiterate kitchen maid Augustine (27 year-old singer-turned-actress Soko in a break out performance), is shipped off to Paris' all female psychiatric hospital Pitié-Salpêtriere which specializes in detecting the then-fashionable ailment of 'hysteria'. Augustine captures the attention of Dr. Charcot (Vincent Lindon, Mademoiselle Chambon, Welcome) after a seizure which appears to give her intense physical pleasure. Intrigued, he begins using her as his principal subject hypnotizing her in front of fellow doctors - as she displays her spectacular fits in lecture halls - and eventually blurring the lines between doctor and patient. (c) Music Box Films
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Art House & International , Documentary , Drama , Special Interest , Faith & Spirituality
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 limited
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:

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Cast

Vincent Lindon
as Professor Charcot
Ange Ruzé
as Pierre
Chiara Mastroianni
as Constance Charcot
Lise Lamétrie
as Head Nurse
Olivier Rabourdin
as Bourneville
Sophie Cattani
as Blanche
Lisa Lamétrie
as Head Nurse
Roxane Duran
as Rosalie
Soko
as Augustine
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Critic Reviews for Augustine

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (22)

By the film's end, it's clear what Augustine is running from, but it's hard to grasp where she was in the first place.

Full Review… | July 11, 2013
Detroit News
Top Critic

That the film raises interesting questions might be good enough, except that, while the movie goes about denying us information we want, it gives us details we don't need. "Augustine" churns slowly and doesn't make for compelling viewing.

Full Review… | July 5, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

French physician Jean-Martin Charcot hypnotized, photographed and exhibited a hysteric, as does French director Alice Winocour for a clinical love story and empowerment tale.

Full Review… | June 26, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Ultimately, while this character-based drama proves consistently engrossing, it leaves various pertinent and fascinating issues frustratingly unexplored.

Full Review… | June 21, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

The psychosexual drama plays out beneath the surface -- the movie is so understated it sometimes feels inert.

Full Review… | June 21, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Fiercely yet faithfully imagined by... Alice Winocur, [the film] is not exclusively a mystery. It's also part love story, part horror story, as well as a parable of gender, power and the enduring enigma that is the mind-body connection.

Full Review… | June 20, 2013
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Augustine

This slow and subtitled French film based on actual events won't be one many are going to out-right enjoy although I found it to be rather interesting as I find its subject matter -- 19th century female hysteria -- to be most fascinating. The film is about Augustine, a young French housemaid (French singer/actress Soko), who suffers a debilitating seizure and is thus admitted to a Parisian psychiatric hospital and treated by renown physician Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon - Bastards). In a medical field that was dominated by men, it was (frighteningly) common for any woman who experienced something that a man couldn't easily explain/understand to be diagnosed with "hysteria". If a woman acted in any manner that society found confusing or objectionable, she was a "hysteric" who could find herself subjected to some horrifyingly abhorrent and offensive "treatment" at the hands of men who claimed a medical interest in her well-being. The time period and understanding of this predominately female ailment IS fascinating; but I think a better film would have focused more on the doctor and his evolving understanding of hysteria over the years following his time with this one patient; but that is not what we are given with Augustine. Again, this is hard to "enjoy" but it is one that could hopefully shed some more light on this bizarre chapter of modern medicine.

Thomas Williams
Thomas Williams
½

"Augustine" is the (fictionalized) story In the late 19th century of a real neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon), who was exploring a cure for 'female hysteria' using hypnosis and the science of the nervous system in Paris. Two years ago there was a (fictionalized) story from Britain about a real physician Mortimer Granville, who was exploring the cure for female hysteria in the late 19th Century, with a film called "Hysteria". The latter was a romantic comedy and the former a dark drama. "Augustine", the title character played by a French singer-actress Soko, is dark in more than the screenplay by Alice Winocour, who also directed, with extraneous scenes and not enough explanation of what caused Augustine's hysteria (except maybe that at 19 she still hadn't menstruated) or how Charcot cured her. He seems to have been a dour 'showboater' who didn't have feelings for anyone which makes the one scene he does show feeling fall flat. He uses Augustine for demonstrations and to acquire funding for his studies while she is being awakened to her sexuality and falling in love with her doctor. The photography by George Lechaptois, certainly under the direction of Winocour, is too dark in many scenes to the point that you really have no idea what is going on and, in some cases, who are in the scene. Lindon is cold, showing very little feeling even to his wealthy wife Constance, played on just the right key by Chiara Mastroianni while Soko embodies the 19 year old illiterate, voluptuous Augustine. Most of the other actors play minor roles with Olivier Rabourdin, playing the medical hypnotist working with Charcot, the only one with enough screen time to be noticed. Roxane Duran, playing Rosalie, a friend of Augustine's at the beginning of the movie, is forgotten almost as soon as Charcot comes on the screen, and you forget she was in the movie. "Augustine" does accomplish the fact that you want to know more about Jean-Martin Charcot and whether Augustine is a real person sending you to google and bing them, in which case there is no need to see the movie.

Martin Goodkin
Martin Goodkin

The movie starts with Augustine(Soko), a maid, feeling unwell while preparing to serve that night's dishes. Still, the show must go on, which turns out to be a mistake when she has a seizure on the dining room floor between courses. The following day when one of her eyes is still closed shut, her cousin brings her to a nearby hospital. Instead of a quick examination and treatment, Augustine is disappointed to hear that she will be admitted, and soon informed that she will also be expected to work. And as far as praying goes, she is told not to appeal to the usual person, but to somebody more local in the person of Dr. Charcot(Vincent Lindon) who finally takes notice of her when she has another seizure. "Augustine" starts well enough with its copious period detail, some implied like the level of ignorance, such as Augustine not knowing what menstruation is. Mostly the target is the patriarchy of the period, especially with women under the watchful gaze of the men.(And we all know the corset was the work of the devil, right?) As fascinating as this is and even with the great Vincent Lindon on the job, the movie never really catches fire until the climax when in quick succession and with the aid of a few well-timed furtive glances, the apple cart is not only upturned but pretty much also tossed down a flight of stairs before being hit by an oncoming vehicle.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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