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Posts Tagged ‘“Madame Bovary”’

Gemma Arterton and Fabrice Luchini

Gemma Arterton and Fabrice Luchini

“GEMMA BOVARY” My rating: C+  (Opening June 12 at the Tivoli)

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Going in, the logical assumption is that Anne Fontaine’s “Gemma Bovary” is a present-day updating of Flaubert’s classic Madame Bovary (a straight cinematic adaptation opens today at the Cinetopia).

Actually, it’s more complicated and ambitious than that.  Perhaps too ambitious for its own good.

The story is told through the narration of Martin (Fabrice Luchini), the sixty-ish baker in a rural Normandy burg. He tells us that he used to be a literary editor in Paris, but gave it up for an uncomplicated life in the sticks.

Now he’s bored silly.

So he takes special interest when he discovers that his new neighbors, a young English couple, are named Charles and Gemma  Bovary (Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton). Quelle coincidence…the newcomers have almost exactly the same names as Flaubert’s characters.

Fascinated and not a little turned on by his pretty new neighbor, Martin befriends the Bovarys (Charles restores antiques, Gemma is an interior decorator specializing in trompe l’oeil) and begins actively studying (or spying on) them.

When he realizes that Gemma — going a bit stir crazy with rural life — has turned to a young law student (Niels Schneider) for a torrid affair, Martin smells a looming disaster. He moves surreptitiously to nip the illicit romance in the bud.

But good deeds can have unforeseen and disastrous consequences. (more…)

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Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary

Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary

“MADAME BOVARY” My rating: B 

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

It is wise to approach a new screen version of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” with caution. (And today in KC we see the openings of two cinematic interpretations…see my review of “Emma Bovary.”)

In even the best of productions Flaubert’s tale of a foolish young wife — so convinced that she deserves a life of romance and luxury that she drives herself and her poor sap of a husband to ruin — is a downer.

The movies’ track record with Emma Bovary is spotty.  Americans are most familiar with the 1949 version starring Jennifer Jones, a spectacular beauty who oozed sexuality. It was easy enough to view her Emma as born to wickedness, and the character’s ultimate downfall must have proven particularly satisfying to misogynists who could argue that this is just the way these silly women are.

Now director Sophie Barthes emphasizes the tragedy in Flaubert’s tale by casting as Emma the wan Mia Wasikowska, who at age 25 could pass for a teenager. No voluptuary, Wasikowska — we first noticed her as the title character in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” — has the physical presence of  a gawky adolescent.

In fact, Barthes and Felipe Marino’s screenplay opens with young Emma being educated by nuns. She’s a free spirit, though, who won’t follow instructions, and the next thing you know she’s being married off to country doctor Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and planted in his drab house in a drab village filled with drab people.

(more…)

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