The Last Mistress DVD
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Directed by Catherine Breillat
Produced in 2007
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Asia Argento, Fuad Ait Aattou, Roxanne Mesquida
Few could have expected that Catherine Breillat, filmmaker and professional agent provocateuse, would turn to a 19th century classic novel for the inspiration for her latest picture. After her explicit studies of (predominantly female) sexuality - Romance, A ma soeur!, the outrageous Anatomy of Hell - she here adapts Une vieille maîtresse, a novel by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly that was attacked for immorality on its publication.
Set in “the century of Choderlos de Laclos” (the author of Les liaisons dangereuses, whose influence flowed into the proceeding century), The Last Mistress follows the conventions of the traditional heritage film in order to subvert them. Breillat spins the narrative around a roguish womaniser and gambler (Fu’ad Aït Aattou, impressive in his debut), who intends to marry a virtuous heiress in spite of her grandmother’s disapproval. However, the reappearance of his scandalous old flame (Asia Argento) threatens to destroy the romance.
Argento gives an extraordinary portrayal - seductive, feral, and at times almost operatic, it is a daring performance that could easily have tipped into camp. In contrast to the chaste heiress, the typical period heroine, she ignites the screen; excited by death, she provokes a duel that nearly kills the hero, and literally laps at his wounds with animalistic fervour. With such strong leads, Breillat does not employ as many sex scenes as in her previous oeuvre, yet The Last Mistress does feature two lengthy scènes de lit that rebel against heritage conventions. With the film's unbridled passion contrasts and lavish production values, it's ironic that the most visually striking scene is not in an opulent palace but in the middle of a desert - another canny subversion by Breillat.
Four years ago Breillat suffered a massive brain haemorrhage, yet overcame her condition to make this marvellous film, declaring: “I may be disabled, but my films won't be, even though many films are." Sadly she has recently suffered another attack, and has not worked since the film’s completion. On the basis of The Last Mistress, this would be a sad loss for French cinema. Long may she continue to (agent) provoke.
Alex Davidson on 4th August 2008
Author of 238 reviews
Period love and lust in 19th century Paris. For nearly ten years, aristocrat Ryno de Marigny (Fu'ad Ait Aatou) has shared a passionate affair with his seductive mistress Vellini (Asia Argento). Now engaged to the respectable Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida), whose grandmother is acquainted with his lustful past, de Marigny seeks to end his former relationship. But try as he might to put his past life and former lover behind him, the boredom of his new marriage soon pushes de Marigny to re-kindle their former passions.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 102 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 25th August 2008
Cat No: ART381DVD
Subtitles: Subtitles (English)
- Making Of documentary
- Theatrical trailer
by PAUL RONAYNE on 26th August 2009
Paris,1835,the high noon of Romanticism, an age of untyped individualists, of excess, extravagance and the setting for Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress. Adapted ... Read on
Paris,1835,the high noon of Romanticism, an age of untyped individualists, of excess, extravagance and the setting for Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress. Adapted from the novel by Barbey D'Aurevilly, Breillat brings her outstanding directorial talents into the world of historical costume drama.
Ryno de Marigny an aristocratic young rake played by newcomer Fu'ad Ait Aattou is to be married to the virginal Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida) Will he, or can he give up his long time mistress,Vellini played by the superbly cast Asia Argento.
Argento is erotic and passionate, tender yet violent in her love for Ryno and she is utterly convinced that he will never leave her, married or not. A nosey group of elder spectators headed by Claude Sarraute and the wonderful Michael Lonsdale watch developments with experienced eyes.
A depature for Breillat in a number of ways; no iconoclastic nihilism, even the sex scenes have their place in what is after all, a love story. Excellent attention to period detail and a sensual use of colour make for a visual treat.