Sim­mer down melo­drama

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON Di­rected by Ni­cole Gar­cia. Star­ring Mar­ion Cotil­lard, Louis Gar­rel, Alex Bren­demühl. 16 cert, lim­ited re­lease, 120 min

This at­trac­tive adap­ta­tion of a novella by Milena Agus stars Mar­ion Cotil­lard in the tale of a woman en­dur­ing an ar­ranged mar­riage to­wards the end of the sec­ond World War. The film strives for the three-han­kie sweep of a con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous Hol­ly­wood “women’s pic­ture” and oc­ca­sion­ally comes close to sat­is­fy­ing those as­pi­ra­tions.

From the Land of the Moon prof­its from a smash­ing cen­tral per­for­mance and from some de­li­cious pho­tog­ra­phy. But – de­spite the high emo­tion and risky re­ver­sals – it feels safe, cosy and a bit unin­spir­ing. If be­lated ef­fu­sions of cinéma de papa are your thing, then look no fur­ther.

Gabrielle (Cotil­lard) be­gins the film des­per­ately in love with the lo­cal school­mas­ter. When she flings her­self at him in undig­ni­fied fash­ion, we feel shame for her and con­cern for the gauges on our melo­drama de­tec­tor. Gabrielle, threat­ened with de­ten­tion in a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion, is mar­ried off to José (Bren­demühl), a brick­layer, by a mother who, though clearly mis­guided, has rea­son to want rid of such a loose can­non.

Heed this, reader. Gabrielle de­sires another. Ac­tu­ally, she de­sires another another. An­dré (Gar­rel), a lieu­tenant in the French army, could hardly be more of an ar­che­typal love ob­ject if he were painted on the cover of an air­port ro­mance novel. Alone and dy­ing in the sana­to­rium where Gab is re­cov­er­ing from kid­ney stones, he uses what en­ergy he re­tains to sigh, play the piano and sim­mer like a man who lives only to sim­mer. The ro­mance hangs with the heroine through­out the rest of her trou­bled life.

From the Land of the Moon is pretty and well-ap­pointed. It has every chance of play­ing well with those who equate “French” with “qual­ity”. But it slips from the mind as soon as it ends. Still, it is worth en­dur­ing to gawp at the lu­di­crous twist in the tale. I ver­ily dropped my pince-nez.

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