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USA 1966
Directed by
Tony Richardson
103 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Although made in 1966, stylistically Mademoiselle might have been made in the 1930s or '40s, so well has Tony Richardson internalised that classic period of French film. With a script by Marguerite Duras from a story Jean Genet, the film is in Lawrentian/Freudian mode with Jeanne Moreau playing a spinster school marm whose sexual frustrations drive her to commit secret sociopathic acts . When a sexually strapping itinerant Italian woodcutter (Ettore Manni) arrives on the scene her libido is barely containable and there’s the devil to pay when eventually she succumbs (after a wonderfully over-the-top symbolic seduction). .

Mademoiselle is a marvellously telling allegorical excoriation of provincial prejudice and society's systematic repression of sexual desire. Moreau, with her sternly impassive poise is perfectly cast as the main protagonist, a "nearly beautiful", as she is described, well-bred woman hiding her mental and emotional instability behind a mask of civility and cool charm.

Richardson, with cinematographer David Watkin (his C.V. includes The Devils, Chariots Of Fire,and Out Of Africa) gives the film a carefully composed and beautifully naturalistic look which serves to heighten the contrast with Moreau’s demonic malignancy.

Richardson is well-known for his work in the 1950s as a British “New Wave” director with films such as Look Back In Anger, A Taste Of Honey, and Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner being icons of the period, but this neglected work although perhaps a little protracted in its latter stages, belongs with his best work. .




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