Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day Sixty-Seven: Mademoiselle (1966) - Rank 4.5/5


In the first half an hour of “Mademoiselle,” we watch the school marm of a peaceful French hamlet set fire to multiple farm fields, flood another farm, poison the town’s drinking water, harass her students needlessly and run a church procession. Now that’s my kind of woman. But the titular Mademoiselle (for it seems that no one in town knows or calls her by any proper name), is not doing these acts out of her enjoyment for violence. These impulsive and destructive acts are spawned from a deep-seeded and highly repressed lust for a transient, Italian lumberjack.

While Mademoiselle rarely speaks, despite the fact that the camera is rarely away from her, you’re never left wondering what she’s thinking or feeling. Jeanne Moreau plays the role with exquisite subtlety, barely cracking a grin as she watches the lumberjack, Moreau, acts the town hero, stripping off his shirt to plunge into a flood to save cattle or to run into a burning home to save children. Her eyes carry a depth though, that allow you to understand everything she is feeling and craving. Quite often the camera is set tight on her face for prolonged shots, drawing you in to her voyeuristic realm of intrigue.

“Mademoiselle” is a film that operates proficiently on a number of levels, going beyond a macabre love story. It explores the realm of xenophobia, as well as the mentality of the mob (exacerbated by the incompetence of the local police).. Certainly the townspeople endeavor to exact justice commensurate with that of the criminal underworld in Fritz Lang’s “M.” Furthermore, the dark aspects to repressed sexual tension are definitely explored as Mademoiselle finds release through sociopathic acts. It’s then nothing less of a profound achievement when all of these themes, with minimal dialog, are interwoven perfectly in a beautifully shot tale.

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