Gabrielle (2005, Patrice Chéreau)

“Time doesn’t matter, I’ve learned. It does as it likes.”

In the same week that I declared I wouldn’t watch any more French movies and then watched one anyway, I decided as long as I was transgressing I’d go ahead and watch another French movie and make it one which I’d actually like. And I did like it, but I didn’t exactly see what’s the big deal about it. The impetus for watching this now was the two articles on the film and director in this month’s Film Comment, so after watching, I read both of those and didn’t get a whole lot out of ’em. Now I’m thinking I shouldn’t have futzed about with High Art while I was sick, maybe just watched a zombie movie.

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Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert of The Piano Teacher and Time of the Wolf) leaves a note and walks out on her husband of ten loveless years.

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Husband (Pascal Greggory of Time Regained) reads the note, questions the servants, gets upset… but then she returns a few hours later.

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They argue, sometimes quietly among themselves, sometimes loudly in front of servants and guests. She’s upset, but always seems to have the upper hand.

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Finally he cries out for her love, and she says there was never any. He walks out defeated, to never return.

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Her affair is with her husband’s editor (an employee, I think), Thierry Hancisse of the last Costa-Gavras film. Don’t remember him having any dialogue. He’s at the house for two parties at the beginning and end of the movie (I think action spans a week) nervously reacting to their looks and words.

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Gabrielle alternately confides in her servant Yvonne (Claudia Coli) and pretends to confide in her… acts cruelly superior to her and treats her with empathy. It’s an even more interesting balance than the one with her husband.

Based on Joseph Conrad. Same cinematographer as A Christmas Tale. Would’ve been nice to see this in theaters, all low light and heavy grain, switching between black/white and color. The three-review round-up on Indiewire/Reverse Shot says plenty about the film which I don’t feel compelled to repeat here. Nice batch of DVD extras which I might go through sometime.

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