Friday 30 July 2010

Catherine Breillat (b. 1948)

Below is an extract of an interview with Breillat from the "Electric Sheep" magazine as published on the 16th of July 2010.

In the interview, the fearless French film director talks about her latest film, "Bluebeard", based on the eponymous nightmarish fairy tale by Charles Perrault which tells the story of a girl trapped as a bride of an extremelly violent man. For the full interview click on the link that is this post's title.

Although the film was one of the highlights on last year’s festival circuit, it has taken a while for Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard to get a UK theatrical release. Originally scripted and produced for French television, Bluebeard is a subtly suggestive retelling of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale about an ugly and extremely wealthy lord whose wives disappear under mysterious circumstances, until he falls for the much younger Marie-Catherine, who agrees to marry him in order to escape the shadow of her beautiful, talented older sister. What makes this understated, low-budget film a pure pleasure is the bold, teasing dialogue between the two sisters in the film’s framing plot, set in modern time, in which Catherine, the younger girl, thoroughly enjoys terrifying her older sister Anne by reading her the infamous tale from a book found in their attic. Playfully grim and increasingly disturbing, with a wonderfully cruel narrative that hints at the fiercely, sexually provocative spirit of Breillat’s previous work, Bluebeard slowly inveigles you before hitting you hard.

Pamela Jahn took part in a round table with Catherine Breillat at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere.

Q: Of all fairy tales, what is it that fascinated you so much about the story of Bluebeard?

Catherine Breillat: When I was a child this was my favourite fairy tale, but I was always astonished that this tale was actually told to little girls, because it’s a fairy tale in which women are killed – Bluebeard is a real serial killer. In fairy tales, you often find a protagonist who is an ogre, like in Little Red Riding Hood for instance, who feels the urge to eat the victims in order to feed himself. But in the case of Bluebeard, you are talking about a human being who marries his victims, including this young woman. But in a way, he is as innocent as Marie-Catherine.

If you look at my films, you will see that I am somewhat obsessed by the relationship between victims and their executioner, but as if the relationship was a rational thing in a physical sense, a relationship between two different forces that measure themselves. And therefore I’ve always wanted to make a movie about Bluebeard. I had decided to make it before I started shooting The Last Mistress. I went to Arte and told them that I wanted to make the movie in five months, and within three or four weeks I wrote the script and organised the shoot. But then I had my stroke and all of a sudden I got a little scared about making the film. But eventually, my desire to make it was stronger and I decided to go ahead with it.


The Mistress Bookshelf: Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood (2006) by Karen Ward Mahar

About "Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood" on The Johns Hopkins University Press (Publisher).

For more information on the book's author, Karen Ward Mahar click here.

Support independent bookshops! Buy the book here.

Friday 9 July 2010

Leaving (Partir, 2009) a Film by Catherine Orsini

Leaving, or Partir in its original French title (2009), is a film co-written and directed by Catherine Corsini starring Kristin Scott Thomas as Suzanne. We are introduced to her character in the film as if somewhere mid-sentence. The film starts half way through the characters' journey and this is up to the viewer to realize as the film progresses.

Is this a film about second chances? Is it about redemption? Without wishing to spoil anything on this gem and with the sole intent of urging you to watch it, I can honestly say Corsini releases the narrative and its characters from any premeditated cinematic cliche. Everyone seems bare, vulnerable even.

What's the danger lurking behind every decision or every word said or unsaid? The ever present sensation that something is about to combust, to explode is effortlessly played with grace and a certain darkness by the exuberant Thomas, who seems to play the character as if she has seen better days, as if the party is over. But you are led into this chapter of her life and therefore we are made to follow through her next crossing.

It is a mature effort, a film for film lovers, for an intelligent audience. An audience who does not wish to be underestimated or patronized by a regurgitated, colored-by-numbers plot. It casts a direct light on its characters, almost like a documentary - if it wasn't for the added drama, passion and quest for atonement. But what is revealed and how, really seems to be under the characters' control, until they can't control it no more.

Catherine Corsini's official website (in French).

Kristin Scott Thomas and Sergi Lopez in their quest for release on Leaving (2009)


In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.