Emma Bovary, returns to the screen this week in the first of two new incarnations. While the second, starring Mia Wasikowska, opens mid-June and is said to hew much closer to the Flaubert novel on which it is based, Anne Fontaine's new comedic twist on the tale has given me and my spouse the most enjoyable time we've had at the movies so far this year.
Pascal Bonitzer, from the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds) the film, and her surprising and engaging stamp is all over this delectable little movie. This is a filmmaker who loves to tease her audience, setting us and our bourgeois notions up for a fall, often in the most hilarious and provocative ways (see Adore, My Worst Nightmare, The Girl from Monaco, and Dry Cleaning for a nicely varied taste of Fontaine's offerings).
In Fontaine's tale Madame Bovary becomes Gemma Bovery (note the change of an "a" to "e"), an English lass recently married to a man who restores antiques (how nice to see Jason Flemyng, above, in a big, solid role again), with the two of them now coming to live in the charming French countryside.
Gemma Arterton (above) does yet another bang-up job in a role that seems absolutely made for her. From St. Trinian's through Tamara Drewe to the more recent Byzantium and The Voices, this fine, young and very beautiful actress keeps using her major skills and looks in increasingly diverse roles. This, along with Tamara Drewe, may be her best performances to date. The actress seems looser, freer, yet much more complex here than most of her roles have so far allowed.
Fabrice Luchini, shown above and below, in the film's actual leading role. Luchini plays a local baker so smitten with Flaubert's masterpiece that he finds himself falling in love with Gemma, even as he himself becomes a kind of Bovary character --bored with his own provincial life and struggling to latch on something better.
Claire's Knee onwards to the more recent Paris, The Women on the Sixth Floor, In the House and Bicycling With Moliere. To name but a few.
Elsa Zylberstein, Pip Torrens, Isabelle Candelier, Niels Schneider (above, left), Edith Scob and Mel Raido, each of whom does a fine job of bringing to life, often with very little screen time, the character in question.
Music Box Films and running a sleek 99 minutes, open this Friday, May 29. In New York City, you'll find it at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and Landmark's Sunshine Cinema. In Los Angeles, look for it at The Landmark in West L.A, as well as at Laemmle's Playhouse 7 and Town Center 5. Soon it will be playing all around the country. Click here and scroll down to see currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters.