When I realized that the French filmmaker Catherine Breillat, director of the voluptuous The Last Mistress which opened SFIFF last year, was also behind Bluebeard, I knew the movie would be infused with exhausting raw sensuality and I immediately got in line. After being mesmerized by preponderance of heaving bosoms and the vagina-like lips of the actor who starred in that movie, I was completely spent and could barely make my way home. (Seriously, who has the energy to be that sexed-up ALL THE TIME?)
Bluebeard is billed as a 17th century fairytale about a nobleman with a penchant for killing his wives. After two sisters are left penniless by the untimely death of their father, the spunky younger sister is determined to pave the way for her own survival and cozies up to the local bogeyman–the mythic Bluebeard, a rich noble man whose wives have a disturbing tendency to disappear. You should know that when I say, “younger” sister, I mean pretty darn young–maybe 12, 14 tops.
An underdeveloped pre-teen in all her fawnlike glory snuggling up with a big hairy dude has a decidedly “To Catch a Predator” feel about the whole thing. I know it’s supposed to be another place and time, and this is supposed to be a fairytale, but there were a few moments when I thought those two were actually going to do it and I was urgently hoping that Chris Hansen would wander into the shot and put a stop to the whole thing.
Breillat’s movies are all debauched abandon, right down to the footage of a beheaded goose twitching and flailing on the ground while its bloody stump of a neck spurts blood. She really holds the camera on the flopping bird and lets you soak it in. There’s also a scene where the burly ogre and the mere slip of girl gnaw away on an unappetizing hunk of meat like wild dogs. It’s earthy and I guess she’s making us face down the uncomfortable and unsanitized reality of the human condition, but good lord it all made me feel slightly uncomfortable.
The theatre seemed to be full of French-speakers and I tried to go with the whole unwashed, hedonistic, Euro thing, but I am way too small town I guess and I couldn’t really pull off the listless ennui all the Frenchies around me seemed to display. The movie made me feel sort of dirty-bad, and yet, dirty-good, which is also why I’ll probably continue to see more movies by Catherine Breillat.
Bluebeard is screening one more time on Wednesday at 4:15 at the Kabuki.