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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MADEMOISELLE (1966)


British helmer Tony Richardson had a restless talent that pulled him away from the popular acclaim of films like his TOM JONES/’63 to adapt this darkly purposeful Jean Genet tale. (It’s his only foreign-language film.) As the repressed spinster-teacher, dubbed Mademoiselle for her fine airs, who is secretly creating havoc in her small xenophobic French town, Jeanne Moreau hardly needs to move a muscle to unsettle us. She unleashes fires, floods and poisons the water, all to assuage an unfulfilled desire for an itinerant Italian logger. Technically, the film is raptly handled, especially in David Watkins ' monochromatic WideScreen lensing, but Genet’s story attempts to split the difference between inexplicable evil and the disastrous effects of Moreau's psycho-sexual implosion. It ends up as neither fish nor fowl and Richardson cannot finesse the dramatic gap between the two approaches. (At times, it just comes off as a misogynist's PMS horror fantasia.) Even so, it makes for a pretty fascinating miss.

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