Director: Nicole Garcia
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Alex Brendemuhl
It's not as hard for Brits to make the figurative journey to American cinema as it is for foreign language-speaking actors, which makes complete sense, given their literal nearness, cultural ties, and common speech. Many from other countries do grace our screens, but English speakers have the advantage, be they Australian, Irish, from anywhere in the UK, or from around the globe. So for a French native like Cotillard to have such a strong impact on Hollywood is no small feat. I first saw her in an American picture in 2003 in Big Fish, a stunning film. A few years later she'd make her move: A Good Year, Public Enemies, Nine, Inception, Midnight in Paris, Contagion, The Dark Knight Rises, Blood Ties, The Immigrant, Macbeth, Allied, Assassin's Creed. One or two of those might be English or otherwise, not American, but you get the point. Which is, simply, that Marion Cotillard might be the biggest, baddest foreign language actress out there, and that we ought to be taking notice when she stars in anything, regardless of accent.The Movie
Gabrielle is a young woman from the south of France growing up in the post-WWII 50s, following the traditions of her farming family and battling against the control they have on her life. She is also attempting to understand her overwhelming sexuality, a pressure that is building inside her until she might burst. Enjoying her own body isn't enough, an imagined affair with the teacher doesn't work out, exposing herself to the farm tenants means nothing, and her moods only become increasingly unpredictable. Her parents, in an attempt to settle their daughter down, engage her to a solid, Spanish workman, someone who they see as quite manly, appreciatively calm, and perhaps a husband who can take his wild wife in hand.
Although she vows never to love Jose, Gabrielle begins the typical life that everyone wants her to lead, following her husband into the brick business and creating a home near the sea together. But when she develops stones, a painful condition that also keeps her from becoming pregnant, Gabrielle leaves her life for a time to be treated at a spa. There her loneliness and melancholy become overwhelming, and she wonders if she can ever go back to the unhappy existence that seems her only choice. But a welcome disruption comes in the form of an ill soldier, a handsome young lieutenant named Andre. Gabrielle finally feels the passion that she has been searching for her entire life, an abandon that is suited to the mountain resort, even if his illness is quite serious and her outside life awaits her return.
Cotillard is such an incredible actress, no matter what country she's representing. I've seen her in some French films as well, and her talent is undeniable: La Vie en Rose, Two Days One Night, It's Only the End of the World. She is classy, classic, stunningly beautiful, holds an air of depth that translates well to all of her characters, and always brings high-quality acting to the screen. If I were to make a short list of my favorite actresses I'd have to put her toward the very top, up with Kate Winslet, Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett; women who are fearless in their roles and impressive every time. Cotillard has the added attribute of carrying a bit of darkness and mystery into her films, and that is absolutely fine with me.
That edge is used well in From the Land of the Moon, a movie that required an actress who was able to convey a variety of extremely difficult and sometimes unpleasant emotions. First, let me touch on the sexuality, which is perhaps a little uncomfortable at first, since Gabrielle is young and even possibly emotionally unstable, leading to poor decisions and poorer boundaries. Judge her character as you will, but by the end audiences begin to better understand her mental state, which might change how you see her forward sexuality. By the spa though, the film twists itself into a sort of romance, so that changes the tenor significantly. Louis Garrel is used to pushing the envelope; he starred in 2003's The Dreamers, which is still known for its graphic nature. This film isn't graphic, I don't mean to imply that, but sex is important to the story, so be forewarned. The story is strong on its own though, sad and powerful, with acting from all involved to do it justice. The locations are all stunning, you'll want to visit every place, and although the movie runs two hours, you'll never feel the time. It's hard to recommend a heavy French drama to just anyone without first warning them that it's a heavy French drama, so consider yourself alerted, but don't be afraid to watch regardless.The DVD
Video: With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and shot using a Red Epic Dragon camera with Hawk V-Lite and V-Series lenses, the video quality of the DVD is very nice, with the strength to support the lovely scenery and to catch our eye independent of the story. The color and clarity were well-done, although the picture never feels like it was intended to take your breath away.
Audio: The DVD was done in French 5.1, with subtitle options in English, English SDH, or Spanish. The music of the film is lovely, with a somber, classical feel, and a good use of piano throughout as part of the plot and of the soundtrack.
Extras: The only special features on the disc are a 25-minute behind-the-scenes segment and a trailer for the film.Final Thoughts
Highly Recommended. I would imagine that you would have to be in the correct mood to enjoy this movie; fortunately I was. It's a sad story, a tale of unhappiness and mental illness and longing and hope and dreams that will never come true. All of that, the period piece format, the French, a war story in the background; it's a lot to take in all at once. Thankfully, we have Marion Cotillard to guide us along the way, and for that I felt very lucky. She took the film squarely on her shoulders, her co-stars were solid, and the result was a dramatic film, yes, but a powerful one as well. The video is rather pretty and strong enough, the audio makes for a pleasant listen, there are a couple extras; the technical side holds its own without being extraordinary. Come prepared for a heavy load from this one, but also expect success.