A bright spot in a swirl of con­fu­sion

Los Angeles Times - - AT THE MOVIES - — Sheri Lin­den

As a frus­trated dreamer who all but trem­bles with de­sire, Mar­ion Cotil­lard de­liv­ers one of her most com­pelling per­for­mances in “From the Land of the Moon.” Al­most no one in the film who en­coun­ters her fevered Gabrielle knows what to do with the char­ac­ter’s de­sire — and, to an ex­tent, nei­ther does di­rec­tor Nicole Garcia. Her lush pe­riod drama equates hyper-ro­mance with both self-re­al­iza­tion and delu­sion, a propo­si­tion that proves more mud­dled than il­lu­mi­nat­ing.

The film un­folds as a long flash­back in which Gabrielle re­calls her ar­ranged mar­riage in post-WWII ru­ral France to a Cata­lan brick­layer (Álex Bren­demühl, un­der­used but pitch-per­fect) and her brief ro­mance with an ail­ing mil­i­tary man.

All too point­edly named An­dré Sau­vage, the en­er­vated vet­eran is played by Louis Gar­rel, who de­liv­ers yet an­other vari­a­tion of his patented brand of en­nui as the sup­posed an­swer to Gabrielle’s fer­vid prayers. In the Swiss spa where they meet, she fix­ates on him with a long­ing bor­der­ing on de­range­ment.

If not for Cotil­lard’s pul­sat­ing in­ten­sity, Gabrielle’s un­hinged sin­gle-mind­ed­ness would be ex­as­per­at­ing. Garcia never gets a grasp on her pro­tag­o­nist’s con­tra­dic­tions or those of her story — cer­tainly not enough to pull off the movie’s jaw-drop­per of a twist. But she con­jures a pow­er­ful sen­su­al­ity, and Cotil­lard burns fe­ro­ciously bright, even when the center does not hold. “From the Land of the Moon.” Rat­ing: R, for some strong sex­u­al­ity and graphic nu­dity. Run­ning time: 2 hours, 1 minute. Play­ing: Laemmle’s Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle’s Play­house 7, Pasadena.

Sun­dance Se­lects

MAR­ION COTIL­LARD com­pels as a woman con­va­lesc­ing at a Swiss spa who fix­ates on an ail­ing vet.

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