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GABRIELLE

Director: PATRICE CHEREAU

FRANCE-ITALY-GERMANY • 2005 • SUBTITLED. COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 90 MIN


A THEATRE AND OPERA DIRECTOR AS WELL AS A FILMMAKER, PATRICE CHEREAU EMPLOYS THE FULL RANGE OF HIS AESTHETIC TECHNIQUES IN THIS ENGROSSING VERSION OF A JOSEPH CONRAD STORY, WHICH ALSO BOASTS SUPERB PERFORMANCES FROM ISABELLE HUPPERT AND PASCAL GREGGORY.
Chereau’s previous films range from the blood-soaked historical drama La Reine Margot and the complex, powerfully emotional ensemble piece Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train to more intimate studies of troubled human relationships in Son frere and Intimacy. Combining elements from all these films as well as his work in theatre and opera, Gabrielle develops from an expansive, well-upholstered period drama into a chamber piece of unusual intensity. Transposing Conrad’s novella The Return from London to belle epoque Paris, the film opens with the self-satisfied Jean Hervey (Greggory) coming home from work and describing his seemingly perfect world. A rich businessman, he lives with his wife Gabrielle (Huppert) in a mansion house where the couple run weekly dinner parties for a carefully cultivated circle of acquaintances. Jean’s complacency is shattered when he finds a letter from his wife bluntly stating that she has left him for another man. A further surprise follows with Gabrielle’s equally unexpected return, which sets the stage for a relentless post-mortem of a loveless, sexless marriage. The film’s success hinges on Chereau’s brave decision to give equal weight to all the key elements of the drama— dialogue, performance, music and visual style. Far from unbalancing the piece, this highly stylised approach works surprisingly well, making for a unique combination of theatre, opera and film. —Peter Walsh.

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