Les destinées sentimentales (2000)

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Les destinées sentimentales: Directed by Olivier Assayas. With Emmanuelle Béart, Charles Berling, Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Perrier. In late nineteenth century Charante, Protestant minister Jean Barnery causes local disquiet when he arranges a separation from his obsessive wife – and more talk when he decides to take her back. By this time he has been drawn to Pauline, niece of a Cognac distiller, and this precipitates him divorcing his wife, settling on her and his daughter the shares he owns in his family’s porcelain factory. He resigns the ministry, marries Pauline, and moves to Switzerland and a tranquil life. On the death of his father he agrees to return home to save the factory, knowing the problems it will bring will change his life completely. So it proves, with service in the Great War having a further profound impact on him and those around him.

“For the first time Assayas has left the contemporary Paris settings of his films and tried his hands on a period picture, set in a small village in the South, a china factory in Limoges, the Swiss Alps and on the battlefields of WW1. The film is a brave attempt to revive Luchino Visconti`s lavish epics but unfortunately lacks the Italian`s breath. The story could have easily been told in 90 minutes (instead of 180!), and even if some scenes and locations look gorgeous (especially the ballroom-scene!) and Assayas` (and cameraman Eric Gautier`s) usual trademark, the nervous camerawork, goes down well with a period picture, all that isn`t enough to hold our attention for such a long time. Nothing in this films can really surprise us, not even the beauty of Emmanuelle Beart or the acting quality of Isabelle Huppert, and as the film potters along one hopes Assayas will rapidly go contemporary again. Not really bad but definitely ways apart from the quality of his earlier films.”

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