Patricia Mazuy (France, 2000)
(a.k.a. The King's Daughters). "A compelling central performance from Isabelle Huppert . . . [who] quietly commands attention as she slides from worldly poise and absolute certainty about her mission to increasingly fearful behavior" (Variety). Set in seventeenth-century France, Saint-Cyr takes its title from a boarding school founded by Madame de Maintenon (Huppert) for the daughters of destitute noblemen. Huppert enacts a wonderful arc: a commoner who climbed the social ladder to become wife of Louis XIV, she initially espouses liberal values and the virtues of truth and beauty; however, when her students become increasingly empowered, both sexually and intellectually, a war of wills erupts, and Maintenon pursues a martial regimen of rules and regulations to keep her charges in check. Meticulously and lavishly executed, with music composed by John Cale, Saint-Cyr is a wryly conceived microcosm of its setting's social and political clashes.
—George Kaltsounakis, Cinematheque Ontario
• Written by Mazuy, Yves Thomas, from the novel La maison d'Esther by Yves Dangerfield. With Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Simon Reggiani, Jean-François Balmer. (119 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From French Ministry of Foreign Affairs)