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The Last Mistress (2007)
Director: Catherine Breillat

Secrets, rumors and betrayals surround the upcoming marriage between a young dissolute man and virtuous woman of the French aristocracy.

The Last Mistress (2007)

Gaddafi’s Italian

What you open to can be bigger and more fulfilling if you are careful to make those things few. Some films you can let permeate your soul, and others you must keep at a distance. Part of the experience of film, unavoidably, is how to handle celebrity. Sorting out who is easy; keeping a reign on how is harder, especially (for me) where women are concerned. I allow Asia into my field of vision, together with a few similar excessive female lives. The simple narrative is merely that they live their lives deeply, with some dangerous mix of abandon and control. Our vision only sees the cinematic skin of their lives in sex and relationships, but we infer the internal passion and focus.

Breillat makes powerful films, formed as skits about damaging sex and recoil. The balance is a bit unfair because these things are easy to communicate but hard to convey in a manner that you can use in building a self. But she is honest and we see her. She apparently had some severe medical event and this is her first film after recovery. She merely adapts a book, a story about a man reluctantly captured by a woman. That woman is played by Asia, presumably using much of herself or what she uses in acting herself.

Narratively, the thing is well structured. We have an outer wrapping: a couple telling each other the ‘scandalous‘ story we are about to see. Then we have the story of the romance, and an inner story where the man tells the story. These three versions do not coincide, but the tension among the versions is not mined as we would hope.

The society dunces have the romance as simply sexual gluttony, too marvelous to abandon. The story told by the man is one of reluctant obsession, a curse that is inescapable and that only incidentally involves the escape of sex. What we see is sparse, allowing us to struggle with our own voyeuristic issues: do we allow ourselves to be captured by the nudity and sex we see, or do we allow the narrative to have its own passion without feeding it ours?

This is where the attraction of celebrity engagement confuses because Asia exists outside the movie. We see the familiar tattoos. We see the commitments, still rare among actresses. We see the risk. It works, I think, but only by accident and it may not for you if you have not followed her life from that of the tortured film child.

The sexual roles, incidentally, are reversed. The guy is passive, possibly a victim and softly feminine. He lies like a stereotypical woman. The mistress is bold, open, fearless, aggressive. She is possibly the predator, fate be denied.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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