Tuesday, 19 April 2011

La Belle Endormie

On the weekend, Mr Mascka and I went to see Catherine Breillat's La Belle Endormie (Sleeping Beauty) at ACMI. This is Breillat's second film that retells a classic fairy tale - the other was Bluebeard, which I haven't yet seen. On the whole I was a little disappointed with the film. We missed the first ten minutes (someone just had to get chocolate!) but I gather it followed the classic Sleeping Beauty plot.

When princess Anastasia is born, and a wicked fairy curses her to prick her finger on a spindle and die. Three faries, who were late to the christening, manage to avert most of the curse. Instead, the princess will prick her finger at age 6, sleep for 100 years, and wake up at age 16. The fairies promise her that while she is asleep, she will dream.

The next sequence of the movie follows the tomboyish Anastasia travelling through her dreamworld. Rather confusingly, Breillat decided to add the story of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson to the mix. Firstly, Anastasia is taken in by a widow and her teenage son, Peter (Kerian Mayan).

The two are brought up together and Anastasia idolises the older boy, but after seeing the Snow Queen one night, he ends up being lured away by her. Anastasia sets out to find Peter, who she sees at part brother, part lover.

Anastasia sets out to find him, along the way meeting a dwarf railway guard, and in one of my favourite sequences, an albino prince and princess, who live in a beautiful moated castle and sleep in a golden bed. There is a wonderful scene, shown above, where the three children have a tea party in a conservatory, complete with a delicious selection of macarons other delicious French delicacies. Look at that crazy multicoloured layer cake at the centre of the table!

The royal couple give Anastasia some warm fur clothes, and send her on her way in a Cinderella-like carriage. Unfortunately this attracts a band of robbers, who are led by a gorgeous gypsy robber-girl (Luna Charpentier). Eventually the robber-girl releases Anastasia, even giving her her pet reindeer to ride to Lapland on. Here she encounters a shamanistic wise-woman who tells her that she already has the power to release Peter from the Snow Queen's clutches.

Jarringly, the film now reverts to the Sleeping Beauty plotline, with the now 16 year-old Anastasia (Julia Artamanov) waking up in the present day, and being visited by a young man who claims to be Peter's descendant Johan (David Chausse). The seduction scenes between the two are not very convincing, especially as we get glimpses of Johan's everyday life as a student in between. By the time it got to the lesbian sex scene with Anastasia and the now grown-up robber-girl, it was all becoming a trifle silly.

The film received mixed reviews, with a lot of comments that it was disjointed. The costumes and sets are gorgeous though, so if you can bear with the rather ridiculous and at times nonsensical plot, it's worth having a look. There is one more screening at ACMI next Sunday (24 April) at 3pm.

(most of the photos in this post are from Cinema of the Worlds)

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