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THE PAGE TURNER

Director: DENIS DERCOURT

FRANCE • 2006 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 85 MIN


A UNIQUE FIGURE AMONG THE WORLD’S CINEASTES, WRITER DIRECTOR DENIS DERCOURT IS ALSO AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN AND TEACHES VIOLA AT THE STRASBOURG NATIONAL CONSERVATOIRE, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME SUSTAINING A FILM-MAKING CAREER. THIS TIGHTLY-COILED THRILLER IS HIS HIGHEST-PROFILE CELLULOID ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE, YET IT’S UTTERLY REDOLENT OF THE COMPELLINGLY SPRUNG INTIMACY OF GREAT CHAMBER MUSIC.
Almost unrecognisable from her role as the traumatised mother in the Dardennes’ L’Enfant, Deborah François demonstrates striking versatility as Melanie, a secretary in a musical agency who gets a job as personal assistant and eventually page-turner for concert pianist Ariane (the superb Catherine Frot), who’s in a fragile state after a car accident and trying to hang on to her once-glittering career by playing in a piano trio. What Ariane doesn’t know is that the two women have history: as a junior piano student Melanie failed a crucial scholarship audition Ariane was carelessly judging, thus destroying the girl’s chances of progressing. Melanie has been plotting her revenge for years, and now she’s about to get her opportunity. The ensuing game of cat and mouse is reminiscent of classic Claude Chabrol movies, with an added frisson of sexual tension, and even brings off the Hitchcockian wrinkle of having the audience switch allegiance midway through the story. Not surprisingly, the music is used with great skill, especially the turbulent Shostakovich Piano Trio, and indeed the whole story builds from an understanding that the accomplishment of classical musicians exists in a delicate balance, easily upset by the swings of capricious desire. Darkly, deliciously French.—Trevor Johnston.

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