"Bluebeard" DVD Review

7/16/2010 Posted by Admin


DVD Review

Written and directed by Catherine Breillat, 80 minutes, not rated.

By our guest blogger, Anthony Crabtree

The latest film from Catherine Breillat, "Bluebeard," is based on the fairytale of the same name by Charles Perrault. Instead of simply focusing on that one story like a traditional adaptation, Breillat intersperses scenes with two young girls reading the story by themselves. This is where the true meat of the story comes from for Breillat, showing not what the fairytale actually is, but how the fairytale--and stories in general--can impact their readers.

This idea is best shown with the plotline of the two little girls, Marie-Anne (Lola Giovannetti) and Catherine (Marilou Lopes-Benites), reading the story to each other. They sneak upstairs (as if they are committing some great sin) to play around and read "Bluebeard." Their reactions and how they respond to the story with either fear or excitement are the same reactions that fairytales like these are supposed to generate. Despite the fact that, as children, we heard these stories over and over again, there is something about them that still grabs us. Ultimately, for Breillat, one of the major morals of her story is not found within the actually telling of "Bluebeard," but in how we react to the telling of it.

While this may be where the main moral of the film is found, the film still opens with and revolves around the actual “Bluebeard” story. Two girls, whose father has just died, are shown, and Breillat focuses on how this immediately changes their lives. Marie-Catherine (Lola Creton) and Anne (Dapne Baiwir) can no longer have even the basics that they are used to, and find that without a father or man to support them, they have nothing. Eventually, Marie-Catherine has to marry Bluebeard, a rich man in the town who promises to provide for her and her family.

With these segments, Breillat brings "Bluebeard" to the audience from the perspective of a woman. While there have been feminist retellings of "Bluebeard" before, Breillat shows how male dominated the world is, and it is completely effective because of her brutal honesty with the telling. Her point is not hammered over the viewer's head, but rather presented in an honest and fair manner. Never does she go over the top, showing the evil males ruling over the helpless females. Instead of portraying Bluebeard as someone who is physically abusive, she shows more how he is emotionally abusive, toying with Marie-Catherine and her trust. There are several slight examples that display the dueling roles between women and men, and Breillat balances them excellently throughout.

While she does explore many different ideas throughout this picture, it should also be noted that the film looks stunning. Similar to her last film, "The Last Mistress," Breillat gives her audience lavish costumes and beautiful settings. The entire thing looks exactly as a fairytale should, and she completely succeeds at achieving the look that is necessary to reel the viewer in.

While the film does look fantastic, and focus on certain feminist aspects, there is still a great deal more to it. Yes, there are the feminist aspects of the film, showing the necessity of men in the lives of these women. There also is the theme of how people, in particular young girls, are affected by the oftentimes violent and male-dominated fairytales that children grow up with. To say that these two things are all that the film is about, though, would be shorting the film by quite a bit. "Bluebeard" may not be Breillat's best work, but it is still something that will certainly be talked about in certain circles for years to come, as it does challenge the viewer to look at the structure of fairytales and the effects of reading them.

Grade: A-

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