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The Last Mistress (#110 of 2)

Notes from the 34th Seattle International Film Festival - Dispatch One

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Notes from the 34th Seattle International Film Festival - Dispatch One
Notes from the 34th Seattle International Film Festival - Dispatch One

The 34th Seattle International Film Festival gets underway this Thursday, May 22. The press screenings, however, commence nearly a month before. For this first dispatch, I’ve set out to record my day-to-day impressions of what I was seeing, witnessing, experiencing on screen.

On the Circuit: The Last Mistress

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On the Circuit: <em>The Last Mistress</em>
On the Circuit: <em>The Last Mistress</em>

Devoid of shock murders, genital close-ups or bodily discharges (save one abortion scene that still pales in comparison to the one in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), The Last Mistress, Catherine Breillat’s first period picture, is less scandalous than any of her recent films, but it proves to be just as engaged with the impossibility of heterosexual relations and the vagaries of desire.

Based on a then-sensational 19th century novel by Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly, the milieu is one of elegantly costumed French aristocracy whose veneer of high morals barely conceals a sexual economy of infidelity and hypocrisy. While bodice-ripping historical romances are nothing new, Breillat brings her indelible mix of braininess and rawness; mixing verbal and physical sexual exchanges, she aims both high and low where other films settle for a tastefully soft-core middle.