Saturday, March 5, 2011
Catherine Breillat's fans probably don't need a nudge to see her films, and her detractors should ignore all recommendations. But: wow, her 2010 La belle endormie (The Sleeping Beauty) is a major work even by her high standards. Starting from the premise of Perrault's fairy tale, Breillat contrives that the titular princess shall fall victim to her sleeping curse at age six (Carla Besnaïnou, showing off Breillat's distinctive manner of directing young children) but awaken at age sixteen (Julia Artamonov), and that she shall enjoy an active dream life. Once the plot is sprung, Breillat plunges into dreamland, and the film takes on more resemblance to Chabrol's Alice ou la dernière fugue (1977) or even Resnais' Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968) than to her more modest Perrault adaptation Barbe Bleue (2009). But not until the credits roll can we be completely sure that Breillat is after bigger game than fairy tales or even dreams... Her wide-ranging, tender interest in the contradictory twists of the human psyche is fully engaged by the unrestricted subject matter - and she has never made a film that demonstrates more clearly her great gift for operating on multiple levels of abstraction, a game that for her has always meant breaking the cage of narrative closure instead of seeing us safely to solid ground. Practically a trailer for our second viewing, La belle endormie screens twice more in the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series: on Sunday, March 6 at 1 pm at the IFC Center, and on Tuesday, March 8 at 1:30 pm at the Walter Reade. And I believe it's been picked up by Strand for a spring 2011 theatrical release.