A Gallic Bucolic Charmer

List them – they all roll off the tongue. There’s Sophie Marceau, Emmanuelle Béart, Cécile De France, Marion Cotillard – just to get one started. The doyen is, of course, the magnificent Catherine Deneuve, still continuing along in fine form on the screen. Then there’s this scribe’s particular favourite – the sinewly sensuous Charlotte. Gainsbourg. These luminous ladies light up the silver screens of art house movie venues all around the world with their chic, their Frenchiness, their certain something Hollywood damsels have never been able to replicate. They are rightly revered in their homeland and I revere them as well. And there’s another who has been strutting her chops for decades now and illuminating many a movie with her porcelain beauty – the ageless Isabelle Huppert. Often noted for roles where she plays icy cool, in ‘Folies Bergere’ she glows with inner warmth.

There is an old adage that an affair can have a positive impact on a marriage – refresh it, liven it up. I suspect that in at least ninety-five percent of cases that is not the case, but Brigitte (Huppert) is bored, in a rural rut. Hubby Xavier (a fine, nuanced performance from Jean-Pierre Darroussin) is about to discover if that old saying it true for his stale relationship. These long term marrieds run a stud for those exquisitely hefty bovines, the charolais, in the French countryside. He is your typical ‘hide your feelings at all costs’ rustic. But Brigitte stands out with her millinery, as well as being, at around the fifty mark, still a beauty, a head turner – except for that pesky skin complaint on her chest that simply will not go away no matter how many exotic unguents she applies. She meets a younger slick city type at at local party she is cajoled to attend, with the result that horizons suddenly expand. Can he be the catalyst to lift her out of that rut? Using the treatment of her eczema as her excuse, Brigitte becomes cougar. She heads for the City of Light to track down her quarry in his own environment. When that does not exactly go to plan, she substitutes a Danish dentist (Michael Nyquist of ‘As It Is In Heaven’ and ‘Dragon Tattoo’ fame).

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By now Xavier senses a rat and followers her to the sinful city, engages in a bit of detective work and spots her with her new beau. He knows by her body language she is not partaking in an innocent encounter. He doesn’t confront – he will bide his time. Eventually she’ll have to return to the farm, but what then? Can it really all be the same again?

There are some stunning scenes in this – several that will particularly linger. The couple’s son has eschewed inheritance of the farm to indulge his passion for circus skills. He is at odds with his father over this, but when Xavier surprises with a visit to where he trains it is revelatory. As it is when Brigitte finds evidence that she has been sprung. Her reaction displays just what an actress the venerable Huppert is!

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And we also discover if smothering a nasty rash in passionate kisses can be a cure for the complaint. Well then, does our heroine truly find that it is never too late to live a little? Do there always have to be negative repercussions for bedding someone out of wedlock? I saw this French charmer in a week when a cafe siege and the slaughter of innocent children dominated the news. This sublime movie truly made me feel better about the planet. It will put you in a better place too.

Official Website = http://www.palacefilms.com.au/foliesbergere/

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