'Mademoiselle Chambon': An exquisitely acted romantic tale
"Mademoiselle Chambon," an exquisitely acted French film directed by Stéphane Brizé, examines a possible love affair and its consequences.
The New York Times
'Mademoiselle Chambon,' with Vincent Lindon, Sandrine Kiberlain, Aure Atika. Directed by Stéphane Brizé, from a screenplay by Brizé and Florence Vignon, based on the novel by Eric Holder. 101 minutes. Not rated. In French, with English subtitles. Harvard Exit.
This review bears no star rating because The New York Times does not provide such ratings with reviews.
Characters suppressing volcanic emotions that can be decoded only by reading expressions and body language give Stéphane Brizé's "Mademoiselle Chambon" a complexity and tension that transcend words.
A questioning look exchanged and held for a half-second, the trembling of a lower lip, a stride that is a little too purposeful, a conversation that breaks into an uncomfortable silence: These are the signs of potentially life-altering choices and incipient chaos seething under the placid surfaces of bourgeois lives.
For much of this exquisitely acted film, which examines a possible love affair and its consequences, its three main characters — Jean (Vincent Lindon), a mason; his wife, Anne Marie (Aure Atika), who works in a book factory; and Véronique Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain), their son's unmarried grammar-school teacher — carry on a romantic triangle that is barely acknowledged.
The story couldn't be simpler. The happily married Jean falls under the spell of Véronique after being invited to his son's class to talk about his occupation. Afterward, when Véronique asks him to look at a broken window frame in her house, he repairs it. When the work is completed, he cajoles Véronique, a former professional violinist, to play for him, with her back turned because she is so shy.
The strains of a romantic melody by the Hungarian composer Ferenc von Vecsey awaken a buried longing in him.
The performances by Lindon and Kiberlain, who were once married, are so completely lived-in that you feel that you know them intimately, despite the paucity of dialogue.
"Mademoiselle Chambon" belongs to a long line of French films exploring desire and the consequences of acting on it. This small, nearly perfect film is a reminder that personal upheavals are as consequential in people's lives as shattering world events.
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