The tedium of French beauty

Place Vendome

(France)

Directed by Nicole Garcia

(Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle

Seigner, Jacques Dutronc, Jean-Pierre Bacri)

French w/ English subtitles

Today’s French cinema can be briefly encapsulated with one word, Deneuve. Catherine Deneuve in her forty thousandth film is, yes, still gorgeous. Will this bionic woman ever age? She looks a fraction older than she did in 1967’s Belle de Jour, but whether it’s a strict diet of wheat germ and papaya juice or seventeen hours a day exfoliating in a Val d’Isere mud bath, Deneuve’s appearance is beyond the point.

In Place Vendome, she plays Marianne, a recently widowed aristocrat, who must pick up the reins of her husband’s diamond dealership. Deneuve most definitely brings her A-game to this film. Her soft-spoken sensitivity brought to the role conveys her character’s frailty of being alone, but as time progresses this bout of vulnerability is remedied.

Marianne becomes emotionally stronger and kicks her alcohol addiction, even amid the turmoil dealt to her by her husband’s suicide. As she unravels her husband’s “dark” secrets (which really aren’t that bad), she learns to regain her ambition she had lost twenty years before. As Marianne mingles with her husband’s business circles in addition to an encounter with an old flame, she becomes immersed in the unfinished illicit affairs of her husband and her own past.

Yet, (yes, I said yet) Deneuve can’t do it all. The movie remains stagnantly slow-paced and never gets off its feet. Much of the film is devised of shots of people thinking, for crying out loud, not to mention the dialogue is dryer than my mouth the morning after power hour. The melodrama the director attempts to create amid the backdrop of constantly rainy Paris is never achieved.

Slow-moving and tedious to watch, the political web Marianne and the rest weave becomes vain in its attempt to be a thriller. The frequently mentioned but absent Russian mafia would have been a welcome jumpstart to the film had they appeared, but most of the so-called “tension” in Place Vendome is meagerly uneventful.

One three-minute, overdubbed flashback near the end fails to compensate for the initial 90-minute incohesive plot development. I enjoy a slow-moving movie as much as the next fella – if I get something out of it, but alas, in Place Vendome the payoff never comes.

-Sean McGrath

 

Place Vendome opens today and runs through July 26 at the U Film’s Bell Auditorium.