Ice and fire from Gabrielle
by Fabien Lemercier
Master stroke last night at la Mostra with the screening in official competition of Gabrielle [+see also:
film profile], impeccable demonstration of the talent of French filmmaker Patrice Chéreau. Aided by exceptional performances by the duo Isabelle Huppert - Pascal Greggory, the director’s ninth feature succeeds in winning his bet of infusing a modern energy into the corseted world of the Paris upper classes of 1912 and makes stylish cinema out of the very literary short story from British writer Joseph Conrad. Combining visual virtuosity and narrative intensity, the film received a good reception from the press and professionals despite the abyss of perception of the world which would appear to separate the 21st century spectator from these characters imprisoned in their social conventions, holding back powerful emotions till bursting point.
Kicking off with a brilliant black and white sequence which evokes a tribute to the cinema of the Lumière brothers, Gabrielle initially follows the thoughts of Mr. Hervey (Pascal Greggory ), a rich man, satisfied with his position, with his urban receptions and his ten years of trouble-free marriage with Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert). But a letter arrives and his world trembles: his wife has left him for another man. A surprise within a surprise since a few hours later she comes back. The start, then, of a chess game between husband and wife, the polished surface explodes in the face of emotional chaos and colour imposes itself definitively on the images. Love and love-lost, secret from the past and painful revelations, verbal aggression and inner suffering: the couple will brutally settle old scores over a ten day period, each one searching desperately for a way out of this bankrupt relationship. And as attentive spectators, the servants and the urban circle exercise an enormous pressure, the social views of the epoch. A straitjacket of conveniences which will completely rip Mr. Hervey apart, and as for Gabrielle, who allows her emotional disarray to be pierced, she appears to be a figure from the early days of Feminism.
Made with supple theatricality and audacious shots from the DoP Eric Gautier, Gabrielle mixes a cocktail of cold society and inner fire, classicism in costumes and modernity in treatment (screenplay co-written by Patrice Chéreau and Anne-Louise Trividic). This piece of work, a natural progression in the filmmaker’s exploration of cinema, was a majority French production by Azor Films with a notable co-production partner from Italy Albachiara Produzioni. The budget of 5,32 million euros also includes aid of 580 000 euros from Eurimages, 280 000 euros from the region Ile-de-France and 600 000 euros from Arte France Cinéma. Sold internationally by StudioCanal and pre-sold to, among others, Spain, Switzerland, Benelux, Greece and Italy (Mikado), Gabrielle will be released in France on the 28th of September (Mars Distribution ) and in Germany on the 31st December (Concorde).
(Translated from French)
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