Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Burgeoning, Frightening Female Sexuality: Bluebeard

Barbe bleue/Bluebeard (2009) - Breillat
Catherine Breillat's retelling of French folklore Bluebeard: the 'curiosity killed the pussy(cat)' allegory, is at once minimalistic and inelegant in its presentation. After their father's untimely death, two unfortunate sisters get kicked out of the school which is run by unsympathetic nuns. Older sister, Anne, is a class conscious, bitter, button nosed pretty redhead and the younger, Marie-Catherine, is a clear eyed brunette (Lola Créton, prepubescent cross btwn Q'orianka Kilcher & Iréne Jacob). They end up at the party thrown by Bluebeard in the hopes of selecting his new bride. Ogre by reputation, seemingly harmless Bluebeard is rumored to have killed several of his previous wives. Marie-Catherine's combination of innocence and pride quality inspires Bluebeard to choose her.

The story within a story is read by two preteen sisters (apparently named after the Breillat sisters), in baby doll dresses to its deadly consequences. This self-referential sibling rivalry, depicting older one the prude and the younger, more adventurous- I hear the Breillats stopped talking to each other after Catherine's ultra offensive Fat Girl (also about two sisters).

I've never been a fan of Breillat's style. Her deliberate stage-ness, lack of subtlety & visual flare and stilted dialog always struck me as amateurish, but I guess she's been doing that for a long time now. Bluebeard has its Middle Ages gothic beauty moments, especially in the beginning. Here Breillat really restrains herself not to go over the top. Bluebeard story inspired many writers including Angela Carter. Depicting burgeoning (and sometimes frightening) female sexuality is definitely not new. Is Breillat up to the task? I say yes. Her brand of feminism is kinda growing on me.

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