Ne toucher pas la hache

Director: Jacques Rivette

France / Italy| 137| mins

This new film by New Wave master Jacques Rivette sees him returning to his beloved Balzac as a source. Unlike La belle noiseuse, Ne toucher pas la hache is very much a literal adaptation of the novella La Duchesse de Langeais which makes up part of Balzac’s La Comedie humaine. Best described as a romantic duel, Balzac’s novella tells of the tumultuous relationship between a French General, Armand de Montriveau (Guillaume Depardieu), and the coquettish but married Duchess Antoinette de Langeais (Jeanne Balibar).
Rivette’s trademark long takes allow the words and the actors’ performances to shine through. Balibar and Depardieu are more than up to the task, igniting both verbal and physical fireworks. Lavishly produced, with luxurious costumes and sets, the film brings us straight into the inner circles of the upper classes of Restoration-era Paris, when society was dominated by hypocrisy, vanity and money.

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