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Madame Bovary, June 15

Isabelle Huppert: Passion and Contradiction

Thursday, June 15, 2006
7:30 p.m. Madame Bovary
Claude Chabrol (France, 1991)

Chabrol arguably has been filming Madame Bovary all along, but perhaps this gave him leave to now have Flaubert, as he said, "on his shoulder"—to shoot in a Normandy village near Rouen, collecting precise details as to clothes, food, and physical tics from the novel itself. Some critics called the film faithful to a fault, but like a wayward wife Chabrol is faithful in his way: he never confuses film with novel. Voice-over narration from Flaubert's text has the effect of preserving the camera's own language, which is as exacting as ever. In the warm yellows of her hair and skirts, Isabelle Huppert is a dark Emma Bovary, haunted as much as driven by her vague notion of passion and the striving toward ennui of the bourgeoisie. The editing is as antiromantic as the film is anticlerical; Chabrol doesn't get cozy with Flaubert, and for that, the master would have been grateful.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Chabrol, from the novel by Gustave Flaubert. Photographed by Jean Rabier. With Isabelle Huppert, Jean-François Balmer, Christophe Malavoy, Jean Yanne. (140 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, permission Sony Pictures Releasing)