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  Last Mistress, The Love HangoverBuy this film here.
Year: 2007
Director: Catherine Breillat
Stars: Asia Argento, Fu'ad Ait Aatou, Roxane Mesquida, Claude Sarraute, Yolande Moreau, Michael Lonsdale, Anne Parillaud, Jean-Philippe Tesse, Sarah Pratt, Amira Casar, Lio, Isabelle Renauld, Léa Seydoux, Nicholas Hawtrey, Caroline Ducey
Genre: Romance, Historical
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Parisienne society is buzzing with the news that the louche Ryno de Marigny (Fu'ad Air Aatou) is to marry a young noblewoman, Hermengarde (Roxane Mesquida), when they all know of his less that faithful past. Yet he has been faithful to one woman, and she is the Spaniard Velllini (Asia Argento), who has quite the reputation herself, and even though their paths have diverged over the years it seems they can never quite leave each other alone. Can a leopard change his spots and will Ryno forsake his old ways, and more importantly, will Vellini allow him to put her in the past? There are those who don't believe she will...

Catherine Breillat offered up her familiar brew of torrid romance, general dissatisfaction with relationships and explicit sex scenes with The Last Mistress, or Une vieille maîtresse if you were French, although to be fair her sex scenes were toned down from what she had been capable of in previous films. However, she transplanted all this from her more accustomed modern France to the nineteenth century version, all based on one of her favourite novels by Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly, and by and large the change of scenery breathed new life into her work.

Not that the smug lead couple did any favours to your sympathies, but at least this was not the stuffy costume drama that it could have been, and the passions did run high. It was just a pity that this did not really translate into compelling relationships, as after ten minutes of their introduction you pretty much have the measure of each and every personality in the story, from Michael Lonsdale's elderly schemer to the corrosive love triangle that takes up most of the attention. But what truly takes up Breillat's attention would appear to have been her leading man.

Legend had it that she spotted him in a Paris cafe and was so taken with his classical good looks that she knew she had found her Ryno right there and then. He certainly fits the role as far as his appearance goes, but his inexperience shows through in his lack of ability to make the character an appropriately hard edged, exploitative rogue, leaving us more convinced that he would be better suited to the bland and gentle Hermengarde than the overexcitable Vellini: Asia would eat him alive given half the chance, on this evidence at any rate.

Speaking of which, those hoping for a dose of that patented Asia craziness will find themselves let down by her here, with only a short sequence showing her naked atop her co-star in the desert, next to a funeral pyre and wailing raspily at the top of her voice the only nod to her more welcome eccentricities. Mostly this is about suffering romantically for your love, perhaps more romantically than Breillat intended judging by all the swooning that goes on in between the two lovers being perfectly beastly to themselves and others. They don't lose empathy with the audience because we can see their feelings are sincere, in a can't live with them can't live without them kind of way, so it's a pity this heat they are supposed to generate we have to pretty much take on trust. An interesting change of setting for this director, nonetheless, and one that benefits her themes.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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