The Duchess Of Langeais

Over the course of his long career, Jacques Rivette has mainly worked in three modesviewing the present historically, period drama, and fantasy; only in Celine and Julie Go Boating has he combined all three. His other greatest works, L’Amour Fou and both versions of Out 1, are in the first mode, even though they work with historical referencesRacine’s Andromache and Balzac’s History of the Thirteen. Conversely, his period films tend to avoid contemporary references. So his period adaptation of the second of the three novellas in History of the Thirteen is a far cry from Out 1 in terms of both method and substance; the only common point is the focus on actors and mise en scene. The flirtation between a married aristocrat (Jeanne Balibar) and a general (Guillaume Depardieu) in Restoration Paris, inspired by a recent romantic frustration of Balzac’s, is masterfully charted and adeptly played, but also rather minimalist. It’s charged with nuance yet ultimately an exercise in compressed literary adaptation. In French with subtitles. 137 min. (JR)

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