Claudel is a woman of extraordinary associations. She was the sister of playwright Paul
Claudel, the mistress of Auguste Rodin, and was once erroneously thought to be
the lover of Claude Debussy. In the
cinema, she has been played by Isabelle Adjani and now Juliette Binoche, but in
reality, she led a deeply troubled life.
Bruno Dumont picks up with Claudel two years after her family
institutionalized the sculptor, dramatizing three anesthetizing days leading up
to her brother’s visit in Camille Claudel
opens this Wednesday at Film Forum.
brother blames the artistic temperament and perhaps he is right. Regardless, his sister clearly suffers from paranoia
and a persecution complex.
Unfortunately, her commitment rather vindicates the latter. Since she is convinced her food is constantly
poisoned by her multitude of enemies, Claudel has special dispensation to cook her
own meals. Given her mostly calm
demeanor, the sisters give her relatively free reign at Ville Evrard and even recruit
her reluctant help with more quarrelsome patients. Nevertheless, if you ask her
about her situation you will get an earful.
1915 is easily Dumont’s
most accessible film in years, but it still bears the hallmarks of his
aesthetic severity. If you hum a few
bars of anything during the film, you will become the soundtrack. Color is also rather scarce. However, there are plenty of static shots
framing Claudel as her spirit slowly ebbs away.
previously invited sympathy for the Devil with Hors Satan and suggested all devout Christians are a wink and a nod
away from becoming Islamist suicide bombers in Hadewijch, Dumont will not surprise anyone with his unforgiving
view of Paul Claudel, the devout Catholic dramatist. He sharply contrasts the
ascetic austerity of the writer with the more sensual feeling of the
sister. Yet, given his affinity for
extremity, the rigidly disciplined Claudel ought to be more in his wheel house.
Vincent duly plays Frere Paul as the cold, clammy caricature Dumont
requires. It hardly matters. He is a distant
second fiddle to Binoche’s title character—a role perfectly suited to her
strengths. Nobody could better convey
the roiling passions submerged beneath her glacial exterior or convincingly
erupt in pained outrage when provoked.
She is a force to be reckoned with, nearly undermining Dumont’s
feminist-victimization narrative. Somehow thanks to Dumont’s powers of
persuasion, 1915 was filmed with real
nursing home patients playing Claudel’s fellow residents and their nurses
playing the nuns, adding further dimensions of authenticity and exploitation
into the mix.
it is the work of Paul Claudel that is most ripe for re-discovery (as the Black
Friars Repertory demonstrated in New York with their Claudel revival project),
whereas reproductions of the sculptor’s La
Valse are widely available. Regardless,
Binoche delivers a remarkable performance in an otherwise flawed film. Best reserved for her loyal admirers and
hardcore French art cinema enthusiasts, Camille
Claudel 1915 opens this Wednesday (10/16) at Film Forum for all of New
Labels: Bruno Dumont, Camille Claudel, French Cinema, Juliette Binoche