Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****
The exquisite French film Mademoiselle Chambon has been co-adapted (with Florence Vignon, from the novel by Eric Holder) and directed by Stéphane Brizé, who a few years ago, gave us the quietly entrancing Not Here to Be Loved [sadly not yet on DVD in the US]. Brizé now offers an ever better, though just as quietly entrancing, film -- this time using two of France's best actors at the very top of their form: Vincent Lindon (Friday Night) and Sandrine Kiberlain (Apres Vous). A film with minimal dialog, but never obviously so, it relies on the in-the-moment response of the two actors, who are simply marvelous at expressing their inner selves while appearing to camouflage their feelings.
This deeply-felt film -- about a maybe/almost/not-quite/OK-then affair between two people we come to care about very much -- is filled with widescreen images of both nature and commerce, life at home and at school -- all of it full of the occasional jogs of surprise that reality, when captured in a good enough approximation, will offer. Other than what he shows us moment-to-moment, Brizé drops only the barest hints of any background about the title character (her emotionally and geographically distant family for instance) but those few prove quite enough to help create a full character who, as portrayed by Kiberlain, remains as alternately strong/vulnerable as she is mysterious, right through to the very end.
One of the most precious gifts of Mademoiselle Chambon is the way in which it rises above conventional morality and traditional values by first honoring these quite genuinely, but then giving priority to the individuals, their struggle and their humanity. I originally saw the film when it made its NY debut last March during Rendez-vous With French Cinema and found it stayed with me. If you’re searching for intelligent, adult love stories, I think it will stay with you, too.
Kino's DVD includes an interview with director Brizé and some deleted Scenes introduced by film critic Stéphane Goudet.
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