- Format: NTSC
- Studio: eOne Films
- Release Date: May 1 2008
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B0019M7LA0
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #153,310 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
Gabrielle / Gabrielle (Bilingual)
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The marriage between Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert) & Jean (Pascal Greggory) begins to fray after the discovery of a letter that belongs to Gabrielle.
Après dix ans de mariage, une femme décide de quitter son mari, puis revient. Toutefois, malgré son retour, le couple est déstabilisé.
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Huppert, as Gabrielle Hervey, is beautiful and enigmatic as her husband, Jean (played by Pascal Gregory), spends the rest of the evening and the next day trying to discover why she left him; for whom she left him, and what brought her back. He also wants to discover whether they can be reconciled. If so, on what terms. In the tortuous emotional process that follows Jean is impelled to discover the real person to whom he is married.
Jean Hervey is an accomplished and extremely wealthy 19th century business man. According to his own account success in business has come naturally and easily for him, at least until he finds Gabrielle's letter. His house is large and beautifully lavish with a hint of "Citizen Kane" in its gauche overabundance of sculpture. Overseeing this material world is the masterpiece of his possessions, Gabrielle.
In the opening sequence, filmed in black and white, Jean mentally brags to the viewer of his success as he walks home from the train station. He contemplates Gabrielle on this walk and the viewer is ushered into a dinner party previously given by the Herveys, filmed in color. Huppert's Gabrielle is radiant and enigmatic to all as the hostess of the dinner party. Gabrielle is especially a riddle to Jean who admires her ability to help him achieve the status he seeks at the center of a high society which he disdains, but requires as a trophy of his material success.
As the table guests engage in vigorous repartee Jean basks quietly in glory at the head of the dinner table. He admires Gabrielle's own deft, brief and perfectly hosted conversation. At the same time it is obvious that Jean has no idea of what moves her; nor does he really seem to care to explore her inner lights. She plays the role he has assigned her as he would any other instrument or employee of his business. His complacency with this arrangement after ten years of marriage is evident. When he arrives home he reads Gabrielle's letter, tears at his hair in shock, and then finds to his amazement that she has returned. Her return is a masterfully crafted scene.
The destruction of his well planned and ordered life leads to gripping tension and drama as Jean repeatedly theorizes, guesses, cajoles and pleads with Gabrielle to reveal what led to her to flee and then return. The threat of violence against the petite and physically fragile Gabrielle subsists as subtext throughout. Jean is totally dumfounded that his assumptions about Gabrielle have been destroyed by her actions. One suspects that equally frightening for Jean is that her unpredictable actions raise uncomfortable questions about other fundamental assumptions Jean has made about his life.
Yet Gabrielle is neither intimidated nor particularly revelatory in reacting to Jean's efforts to learn the answers to the questions posed by her brief disappearance and return. Gabrielle rarely reveals vulnerability; and then usually only to her servants. Jean is only given small hints why Gabrielle acted as she did. Piecing together those hints to discover Gabrielle's motivation and true character is one of the most interesting aspects of the movie for the viewer.
The reason she gives for returning is more than shocking and deliciously ironic. The gorgeous dénouement in the bedroom, which silently announces the terms upon which Gabrielle agrees to return, and Jean's reaction to it, is a great ending for a great movie.
As noted by others, "Gabrielle" is based upon the novella "The Return" by Joseph Conrad. That is to say that action, like the lighting, only supplements the dialogue. The viewer has to work to appreciate this movie but the effort is well worth it.
GABRIELLE is a case in point and for this viewer this is simply one of the strongest films to come out of France - a country much celebrated for its cinematic genius - in many years. Inspired by Joseph Conrad's short story 'The Return' and adapted as a screenplay by Anne-Louise Trividic and Chéreau, the story is a brief history of a married couple whose ten-year marriage alters in one afternoon and evening - the time span of the film.
Jean Hervey (Pascal Greggory) is a handsome man of wealth who 'acquired' a wife Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert) ten years ago. They live in a mausoleum of magnificent art and base their existence on the glamorous parties attended by the artists and patrons of the arts in turn of the century Paris. Jean's 'acquisition' of Gabrielle included the understanding that they would have no intimacy: they do sleep in the same bedroom but in separate beds. Their marriage seems perfect - but it is hollow. Rather abruptly Gabrielle leaves a note on the dresser addressed to Jean, a note that states she has left him for a man: her need for sexual gratification has risen to the breaking point. Jean is devastated, but as he nurses his broken glass-injured hand Gabrielle returns: she could not go through with ending the marriage of convenience. The two have extended verbal exchanges and physical abuse but it is only to the servants that Gabrielle shares her true feelings. She decides to structure her marriage to Jean by submitting to him sexually, a status that is novel to their marriage, and it is this role reversal of the masculine/feminine state that sends Jean panicked into the night.
Chéreau uses many techniques to render this story about intimacy (or the lack thereof) that strongly support the power of the film: sections are in black and white representing the way things appear and are structured to the planned observation; Raina Kabaivanska plays and sings at a soirée (she is an actual opera star); Jean's staff of servants is only women instead of the usual mix of men and women; the musical score by the brilliant Italian contemporary composer Fabio Vacchi is used as a 'character' instead of background support; and the camera work by cinematographer Eric Gautier uses a full cinemascope camera set up to add weight to the project.
But none of these subtleties would have worked so perfectly without the brilliance of acting of Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory. They find the core of these strange characters and allow us to understand the rather warped psyches of the pair. It is a feat of genius. As an added DVD feature there is an extended conversation with Chéreau, Huppert and Greggory about the film from the intial idea to the finished product and hearing these three brilliant artists share their insights is for once extremely additive to the film. This rather dark and brooding film may be a bit too static for some, but for lovers of cinematic art it is a complete triumph to experience. Grady Harp, January 07