Archives for posts with tag: matthias schoenaerts

I’m going to be unfair to this movie, because I’ve read the novel by Irène Némirovsky, which is brilliant. Suite Française was written during the war, before Némirovsky was murdered by the Nazis, and, though unfinished, it has a much broader and clearer vision of humanity than the film does. It follows, among others, a middle-class family whose son is away at the fighting as they flee Paris, an aging bon-vivant who sticks to his champagne amid the German bombs, an absolutely awful matron of late middle age who values her silver more than people, and a young married lady in the country in whose house an officer of the Wehrmacht is billeted.

MV5BMTczMjg3MzQ0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDYyNzY4NDE@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_The movie, naturally, concentrates on the last grouping, because there’s the most smooching in it. Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) is unhappily married; luckily her husband is a POW, but unluckily her mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) is around to be unpleasant to her. When the Germans invade, Lieutenant Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts) is put up in their house. He is polite, has a nice dog, and can play the piano. Lucile lacks a personality entirely.

Meanwhile, the mayor, Viscount Montmort (Lambert Wilson) and his wife (Harriet Walter) are trying to accommodate themselves to reality; a horrible German officer (Tom Schilling) is billeted on a farm belonging to the Labaries (Sam Riley and Ruth Wilson), which ends about as well as you’d think; a Jewish woman (Alexandra Maria Lara) and her daughter are…there.

This movie is stupid and melodramatic. You don’t need to add pathos to the Nazi invasion of France, or insulting inanities to Némirovsky’s novel. I suppose that, once one has hired the extremely handsome Mr. Schoenaerts, one feels he ought to be on screen, but every other story in the novel is more interesting than Lucile’s and Bruno’s, and less well-trodden.

Director: Saul Dibb
Rating: around PG-13
Length: 107 minutes
Score: 2/5

I seem to recall, when reading minor Dumas novels, that there was a lot of intrigue circling around the building of various of Louis XIV’s stuff, but it was indescribably tedious and I was just waiting for the musketeers to reappear. Or a war, or something. There’s a lot of stuff going on in France under Louis XIV, so you might as well go for the political or military gusto.

This…does not. Nor does it have anything much to do with reality (which it engagingly admits in the pre-film text, which tells you that there was an outdoor ballroom at Versailles, and that, at least, is true). It is, nonetheless, charming.

André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), in defiance of probability, is young and hot in the early 1680s. He is designing some gardens at Versailles, and he needs some help. So he hires Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet), whose lack of artifice is jarring to Le Nôtre’s steadfastly gallic sensibilities, but may be just the touch of genius he needs! Sabine is inexpert at court, but sweetly shepherded around by Rupert Penry-Jones, a godawful mustache, and apparently no ulterior motives, and additionally accepted with suspicious alacrity by Jennifer Ehle as Mme de Montespan. She also manages to avoid inspiring professional jealousy in her various male competitors and to have heart-to-hearts with the King (Alan Rickman) that don’t offend him or get her fired.

She also, of course, falls for Le Nôtre. And this is okay, because his wife (Helen McCrory) is just awful, and her husband is dead and was a cad.

This sounds goofy, and it is. It’s a little inexpert–tries to do too much, makes everyone too humane, overuses artsy camera angles–and not at all subtle. Sabine is a weak link, not because Winslet does anything wrong, but because her character is freighted with vastly too much anachronistic nonsense. No seedy underbelly of 17th century France is visible, no bigotry of any kind, against Huguenots, women, homosexuals, anyone who isn’t French…

So why a 4 out of 5? Charm, chiefly. Stanley Tucci as the Duc d’Orléans and Paula Paul as his wife are gems, lovable caricatures. Rickman’s Louis is perhaps how we’d like to think he was: self-aware, oddly generous, tired of the cares of state but too dutiful to shirk them. Le Nôtre is like nothing on earth, but attractively given to deadpan one-liners.

My best friend said that this movie was rough around the edges but made you wish that Alan Rickman had gotten the chance to direct more films. And it’s true.

Director: Alan Rickman
Rating: R
Length: 117 minutes
Score: 4/5

If I’m mad at this movie, which I sort of am, it’s mostly because I am permanently mad at Bathsheba Everdene, and only slightly because of a joint incompetence on the part of the editing and continuity people, who either never bothered to tell us time had passed or paid no attention to time of day and what people were wearing.

Anyway, as Thomas Hardy adaptations go, it’s adequate shading to good. Scenery lush, costuming slightly mannered but handsome, casting decent, writing heavy-handed and slightly more feminist than the source material. Is “feminist” the right word? Is maybe “less deeply misogynist” the phrase I seek?

Carey Mulligan smirks constantly, which I hate, and Bathsheba never struck me as a smirker, but it’s not wrong. Matthias Schoenaerts is handsome, solid, and a total fucking nitwit, but that’s Gabriel Oak for you. Michael Sheen as Boldwood is convincingly unbalanced; Tom Sturridge is…not the man I would have cast as Francis Troy, but, again, effete isn’t an incorrect direction to go. Juno Temple’s Fanny Robin is not as heart-breaking as she ought to be.

Stray notes:

  • Seriously, Gabriel Oak: fiction’s greatest nitwit.
  • I was idly mapping Hunger Games people onto this, prompted by the Everdene/Everdeen thing, and if Suzanne Collins meant that… Finnick is Troy, Gale is Boldwood? Because Peeta sure as shootin’ is Gabriel, and I just managed to make myself hate both Bathsheba and Katniss even more than I already did, which is impressive.

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Rating: PG-13
Length: 119 min.
Score: 3/5.