Now in his seventies, and not recently working up to past standards, French writer/ director André Téchiné finds something of his old form about halfway thru this oddly focused fact-inspired (was it a) murder case. Catherine Deneuve easily handles a thirty-year time span playing a glamorous Riviera casino owner, hanging on by a thread as a deep-pocketed rival (with likely Mafia connections) works to squeeze her out. With Guillaume Canet, her ruthlessly ambitious lawyer/factotum, and proxy voting authority on her daughter’s share of the business, Deneuve maneuvers a narrow boardroom victory to keep control. But when she denies Canet the managerial post he’s been coveting, it pushes him into enemy camp, along with the needy, entitled daughter (Adèle Haenel) he stokes with resentment and strokes with caresses. Téchiné concentrates on the business end, and lets the affair spin off axis of its own accord as Haenel becomes more emotionally dependant & unbalanced. Canet is working around a wife, kids, a less obsessed mistress and a struggling business. Is he a control junkie, or just attracted to trouble? (Once the film gets to it, the courtroom drama is less Third Act than extended epilogue.) Téchiné also hurts his cause shooting in hand-held ADHD camera style, as off-putting as the clingy Ms. Haenel. But as the story starts to clarify, and an outline of foul play begins to emerge, Téchiné dials back to a more classical/formal mode. Hold on and be duly rewarded.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Ms. Heanel might be sister to the young Elizabeth McGovern. Those cheeks & teary eyes!
DOUBLE-BILL: Films like THE LITTLE FOXES/’41; A PLACE IN THE SUN/’51; JAGGED EDGE/’85; and THE STORY OF ADELE H/’75 drift in & out of the film’s magpie storyline.