Yves Angelo’s Le Colonel Chabert (1994)

I am really glad I have watched this movie. I liked every minute of it. It’s beautifully filmed, the interiors are wonderful, the actors are extremely good.

One of the problems I usually have when a movie is based on a book is that so much I liked has been left out. Le Colonel Chabert is an example of the opposite. Where the book gives us just a few details, the movie elaborates them. The character portraits are much more interesting; the Countess Ferraud and the lawyer Derville, have more depth and complexity and also the Count Ferraud, who is more or less just a distant presence in the book, becomes a real person.

I will not summarize the plot, I have already done this in the review of the novel, I will rather point out a few differences and how the film director managed to put into pictures what has before been put into words.

The movie starts with a view of the battlefield. This isn’t easy to watch. I mentioned somewhere else the problems I had with the movie Waterloo because of the dead horses. The amount of wasted horses is heartbreaking. The scene is very graphic; bodies of men and horses are piled up high and disposed of, just like garbage. There are three instances like this in the movie. They are falshbacks and represent what the Colonel Chabert remembers from the battle of Eylau where he was so severely wounded that he was reported dead.

While the book is rightly called Le Colonel Chabert, the movie could also have been called The Countess Ferraud. There is much more emphasis on her and the role and fate of women in the French society in the 19th century. She is not only greedy and ambitious like the Countess in the novel but she is also a woman who fights for her survival in the society. The movie shows that they are just pawns in a game and that “love” mostly equals lust and where that ends, “love” stops. A woman must constantly fear to be replaced by another one that is either more attractive or more likely to bring a man the social status or wealth he craves or the son he needs. I am not a fan of Fanny Ardant but she is excellent in this movie.

Derville’s role is also much more substantial. I like the way he speaks about his profession and how it made him unvover the ugliest in human society. The avarice, the greed, the fighting over money. Derville is truly a good person. He has seen so many vile acts that it seems to have transformed him into a better human being. There is not much to gain for him, in helping the Colonel, yet he does it anyway. Fabrice Luchini plays this incredibly well. The scene in which he visits the Colonel in his filthy abode is priceless.

Le Colonel Chabert is beautifully filmed. The decor, interiors and costumes are really worth watching. I particularly liked how the lawyer’s chambers were shown and the filthy backyard in which the Colonel lives.

Gerard Depardieu will always be one of my favourite actors no matter how often he parodies himself. I love his voice and he is often great. He is great in period drama but he excels in modern movies. The final scene of  Le Colonel Chabert shows him at his very best. This alone would have made this movie worth watching for me. On the other hand I have to point out that whoever is familiar with French cinema of the 80s and 90s knows that there is one thing to deplore. Whenever there was a big budget movie, it was more than likely he was casted. This makes it occasionally difficult to see the character and not the actor and his former roles. When I saw Chabert I also saw Rodin, the Count of Monte Christo, Cyrano de Bergerac, Vidocq, Vatel, Valjean, Columbus, Maheu, Jean de Florette and Balzac.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a trailer. I attached a few film stills instead.

Bernard Rose’s Anna Karenina (1997)

I started the novel Anna Karenina a year ago and have still not finished it. Why ever not is hard to say. I am stuck on page 600 or so. Danielle seemed to have the same problem as did others. I just never got into it. Especially the Lewin bits slowed me down considerably even though I think he is an interesting character (and does get his share in the movie too). Having seen the movie years ago but not remembering it (only that I did not like it too much) I thought maybe watching it again might get me in the mood to finish the book.

Anna Karenina is a very sumptuous movie and I truly enjoyed the cinematography. This is a stunningly beautiful movie but…. It is flawed. Especially towards the end or rather from the stillbirth on.  I haven’t finished the book so I don’t know what Anna will become. The Anna in this movie got on my nerves (maybe due to poor acting) and I had unkind feelings when she was finally gone (Thank God, sort of). I did not get her suffering. And then there is Sean Bean as Vronsky. Sure Sophie Marceau is cute but the Anna I picture looks different. As frail as her but cooler, more classical.  To put a handsome man’s man like Sean Bean next to her did not help either. No chemistry whatsoever. I see an Anna before my inner eye but I can’t come up with an actress who would do her justice. Especially not next to Sean Bean. I would keep him as Vronsky, that’s for sure (despite his inability to get rid of his accent). All in all I felt Vronsky’s pain much more than Anna’s. That can’t be right now can it? I think Bernard Rose should have called his movie Vronsky.

Despite its flaws it is worth watching. The opulence of the costumes, palaces and houses is wonderful. I think we get a good impression of this society. Rich and frozen in rules and rituals. To be a woman and fall in love with another man than your husband was a catastrophe. It must have been horrible to be a woman in that society any which way you look at it.

Did anyone watch it and like it? Or maybe someone saw the one with Greta Garbo? Or any of the many others?

I am sorry for this very bad trailer but there wasn’t a good one to be found.

The Young Victoria (2009) The Early Years of Queen Victoria. A Gorgeous Period Drama

This movie is a gift. It is gorgeous, sumptuous, enchanting and simply uplifting. Emily Blunt as the young Queen Victoria is such a good choice. She is really lovely. No one who enjoys this period, the style, those wonderful clothes should miss this movie. It makes you dream. I am enthusiastic about the colors they chose for her dresses, always very strong colors, purple, emerald-green, ruby-red, saffron yellow and sapphire blue. She wears them with matching headdresses and exquisite jewellery.

The Young Victoria follows the early years of the young queen. It starts shortly before she becomes Queen and shows how she had to fight for her right to become Queen despite her young age (she was only 18 years old). Her mother was her worst enemy at the time, although she herself was under the influence of another. She controlled and manipulated young Victoria to an unimaginable extent. Once Queen, Victoria freed herself. Lord Melbourne, her Prime Minister, helped her and assisted her in all her duties. She was a very spirited young woman and I enjoyed to see how capable she was to fight for herself. The love story between Victoria and her German cousin Albert is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. They are really a cute couple. It wasn’t a head over heels passion but a strong fondness from the beginning. After initial struggles they reigned together for twenty years. I had no idea about any of this, frankly. I did not know that they loved each other so much until his early death parted them. I did not know that she was the first sovereign to live in Buckingham Palace.

The Young Victoria is really a must-see for everyone who loves period drama, this particular era and the story of a strong woman and a true love.