Saturday, March 14, 2015

Gemma Bovery [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)   aVaL (3.5 Stars)  LaCroix (3.5 Stars)  LeMonde (3 Stars)  L'Express (2 Stars)  FemmeActuelle (1 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
Allociné.fr listing* (F. Mignard) review*
La Croix (C. Renou-Nativel) review*
L'Express (E. Libiot) review*
Le Monde (F. Nouchi) review*
Femme Actuelle (C. Bernheim) review*

Gemma Bovery [2014] [IMDb] []* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Anne Fontaine [IMDb] []* along with Pascal Bonitzer [IMDb] []* based on the contemporary novel by the same name (published in 2000) [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Posy Simmonds [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] in turn inspired by the 19th century French language classic novel Madame Bovary [en.wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] []* by Gustave Flaubert [wikip] [GR] [Amzn]) is a very well-made, often very funny French "dramedy" that played recently at the 2015 - 18th Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.

In the film that like the original Mde. Bovary plays out in "provincial Normandy", mild-mannered (and, truth be told, initially quite bored) Martin Joubert (played wonderfully throughout by Fabrice Luchini [IMDb] []*) who had previously had "a life of excitement" out in Paris, but had returned back some 10 years previous with his wife Valérie (played by Isabelle Candelier [IMDb] []*) and now teenage son (played by Kacey Mottet Klein [IMDb] []*) to help-out and then take-over his dad's small-town bakery, discovers to his surprise that the neighbor's house had been bought by a 30-something couple English couple named Charlie (played by Jason Flemyng [IMDb] []*) and Gemma Bovery (played by Gemma Arterton [IMDb] []*). 

Noting immediately the name, okay, its spelling was one letter off, but also their appearance and lifestyle -- she was an artist, he some kind of an arts dealer / restorer -- poor 50-something mild-mannered "baker" Martin Joubert declared, in a voice-over, recounting to viewers the story: "I knew that 10 years of sexual tranquility were over."  And indeed they were ...

Now it wasn't as if HE was destined to have an affair with this generally kind / charming and with each passing scene ever more sexually EXPLOSIVE Gemma Bovery -- to her he was just a kindly (perhaps even somewhat odd) _old_ man who lived next door and ran the bakery (along WITH HIS WIFE) where she'd buy her bread each morning -- but she DID soon enough strike-up a truly TORRID and ultimately ART-PIECE SHATTERING (note again that her husband was an "art restorer ...") affair with a _rich_, "easy on the eyes" 20-something year old named Hervé (de Bressigny) (played again magnificently by Niels Schneider [IMDb] []*) who lived, yes, in a palatial "chateau" nearby.  Poor husband Charlie, and odd/previously bored neighbor Martin for that matter ... they didn't stand a chance ...

Then, a past lover of Charlie / Gemma's age, Patrick (played by Mel Raido [IMDb] []*) passes through as well. 

Now this is just WAY TO MUCH, ahem, "energy" concentrating in WAY TOO SMALL OF A PLACE (all this was playing-out in-and-around a TINY, OTHERWISE UTTERLY NON-DESCRIPT TOWN in otherwise "sleepy" Normandy) SO THIS COULDN'T POSSIBLY END WELL ... and it doesn't.

Now throughout the story, Gemma keeps being startled by "field mice" both outside and more problematically inside her home.  And she keeps saying that she has to "go to town" to get some "poison" to get rid of them to which the older (perhaps wiser but mostly _odd_) neighbor Martin KEEPS TELLING HER "NO, _YOU_ don't want to be buying any arsenic" (That's how in the classic novel Madame Bovary finally kills herself... ;-).  So Gemma DOES NOT ... but (mild spoiler alert) SHE does die anyway ...

HOW Gemma dies is both terribly tragic but also, for those who see the movie, honestly "kinda funny."

But six months later, Martin's teenage son informs him that a new couple was moving into the neighboring house where Boverys had just lived the previous summer.  They're Russian ... guess their names:  They are the Kalenins ;-).

The film's not for everybody ... But a few older past "lit. majors" would certainly get a kick out of it ;-).  A good and very clever job! ;-)

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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