Place Vendome

Director: Nicole Garcia

Catherine Deneuve has been the female face of French cinema since the ’60s, when her cool beauty illuminated Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. In 1986, Deneuve succeeded Brigitte Bardot as the embodiment of Marianne, symbol of the French Republic. Now, in Nicole Garcia’s elegant suspense thriller Place Vendome, she plays a character named Marianne, and what is clearly designed as a star vehicle provides the actress with an opportunity to turn in her most interesting and least aloof performance in some time. Deneuve was rewarded with the Best Actress prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival.
As the film begins, the melancholic Marianne lives in a state of alcoholic stupor in an apartment off Place Vendome, an elegant square in central Paris and location of the jewellery business. Marianne’s husband is a jeweller who’s involved in shady dealings which he keeps secret. When he’s killed in a car crash, Marianne find herself in a difficult predicament. She manages to pull herself together and sets about selling some diamonds her husband had stashed away in their apartment. Her mission brings her back into the secretive, mysterious world of jewel trading and conjures up memories of a fateful episode from the past when she was betrayed by an old lover, Battisttelli (Jacques Dutronc), who used her as a courier for stolen gems.
Marianne’s journey is part detective story and part romantic quest. Selling the illicit jewels brings her into contact with unsavoury types, including her weary ex-lover, whom she may or may not betray. The jewellery business itself provides an unusual and intriguing backdrop, with its ritzy facades concealing greed, desperation and underhand manoeuvrings. It’s a sombre, twilight world as painted by director Garcia and her talented camerman, Laurent Dailland, with composer Richard Robbins providing an appropriately melancholic score.

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