Sunday 2 March 2014

Mademoiselle [1966]

Mademoiselle is a relentlessly disturbing and violent portrayal of sexual obsession, sociopathic behavior and provincial xenophobia. Its themes of sexual repression and sadomasochistic tendencies of a seemingly respectable lady, along with its stark visuals, static camerawork and lack of non-diegetic sound, make this an excellent accompanying piece to Haneke’s The Piano Teacher; the added angle of veiled criticism aimed at Catholicism, along with the stylistic aspects, also reminded me of Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar; further, if the protagonist’s gender is to be reversed, Chabrol’s Le Boucher also comes to mind. The titular “mademoiselle” (Jeanne Moreau) is a strikingly beautiful lady working as a schoolteacher at a village. The urban-rural divide was underscored by the way she keeps her distance from the crowd, while the folks are either in awe of her or lust after her. She, however, is attracted to the dandy Italian woodcutter Manou (Ettore Manni), and her inherent mix of repression and frigidity makes her secretly indulge in nefarious and destructive activities, which causes havoc among all. The suspicion of the villagers, expectedly, falls on the Italian man because he’s a foreigner and, to add insult to injury, he’s easy with the women. The lady also treats the Italian’s alienated son with utter disdain, even though he’s infatuated with her. The bravura climactic sequence, with she copulating with animal passion with Manou all through the night in the fields, with the villagers searching for him like hungry wolves, took the film to a raw visceral crescendo. Moreau was magnificent as the icy, incredibly alluring and pathological beaut, and her emotional isolation was brilliantly juxtaposed by the film’s exquisitely reined intensity and the arresting expressionistic B/W photography.

Director: Tony Richardson
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Rural Drama
Language: French
Country: French/Italian

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