Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Last Mistress (2007, Catherine Breillat)

After specializing in on-the-nose feminist screeds for years, Breillat brings her trademark sexual politics to the period piece with fairly positive results. One of the most notable aspects of The Last Mistress is the clash between the morality of the film's period and a more contemporary view of sexual obsession. This is most explicit in the character of Ryno de Marigny (played by newcomer Fu'ad Ait Aattou), an upwardly-mobile young man on the eve of his wedding to a young woman of noble birth. But as Woody Allen once said, "the heart wants what it wants," but so does the libido, and the great tragedy of Ryno's life is that the two don't go hand in hand. So even though he legitimately loves Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida), he can't help but be drawn to the titular mistress, played by Asia Argento. It's telling that Breillat doesn't even attempt to make Argento fit in with those around her, using her for her sexy-punk presence more than for her acting talent. This being a Breillat film, sexual desires win out over loftier goals of love. The Last Mistress isn't the change of pace for the director that some have made it out to be, but it's interesting seeing her pet themes translated to a new context.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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