Over the weekend I watched a couple of movies, one from New Zealand and one from France. The NZ one was well done, and had some moments of fun, but overall took itself fairly seriously. The French one had no fun and took itself intensely seriously. It was called The Bridesmaid, (La demoiselle d'honneur). [Actually, La demoiselle d'honneur sounds more like our 'matron of honour, ' but apparently it applies to both, according to a French/English dictionary on the Net. ] It was directed by Claude Chabrol, who's been making a couple a movies a year for decades, and certainly knows how to do the stylish French thing. He was 74 when he made this movie.
It's adapted from a Ruth Rendell mystery, which was also called the The Bridesmaid, and which sounds to be pretty similar to the movie in plot. I came into it about half an hour late, though that didn't make a lot of difference. It concerns a youngish, very responsible young man, the oldest in a family of three children, who like his sisters, still lives at home with their mother (the father hasn't been on the scene for a long time). At his older sister's wedding he is spellbound by one of the bridesmaids, and within a very short time, she convinces him that they were destined for each other. And to prove their love, they should each do for things: write a poem, plant a tree, sleep with a member of their own sex, and kill someone. He thinks she's joking, but she's deadly serious - and a psychopath, something that audience is aware of a good deal earlier than the young man.
He eventually takes the opportunity to claim that he's killed someone they both know who just happens to have vanished conveniently. She takes him at his word and goes out and kills someone else they both know. But in neither case are things as they seem, and the ending has two or three twists.
It's a fairly absorbing movie, but it's so bloomin' intense! Were any two lovers ever quite so mad about each other? (Well, he is about her - we never quite know where we are with her about him.) There are echoes of an inverse Flying Dutchman - the girl is called Senta, though she's the one who seduces the young man, and their love is bound to end in death - of some sort.
I missed where the strange carved stone head of the woman came from (it resembles Senta and is in the story before she is), and it was a bit puzzling why the young man seemed as much in love with it as with the girl. Pays to see the whole movie, obviously.
The NZ movie was called Apron Strings. It has two stories running in parallel, though they only just coincide and no more. In one, a control freak of a mother, who owns a cake shop, is still controlling her 40-year-old son to such an extent that he can't get out and make a life of his own. Her daughter has long since flown the coop, but returns during the course of the story, pregnant, and not worried about keeping in touch with the UK father - who turns out to have been a very black man; their child is as black as the family is white.
The other story is about a gay half-Indian, NZ born youth called Michael, who comes across his aunt's Indian restaurant and manages to get himself a part-time job there. His father has long since vanished (as well) and he hasn't ever had contact with his Indian family because his mother, a celebrity cook on TV, had him out of wedlock, and spoilt the aunt's chances of marriage. The two women haven't talked since. This side of the story is the warmer, by far, and the one that's more conventionally done and receives a more conventional 'happy' ending.
The other story almost pulls together the shreds of the family - the daughter and her grandmother are easily reconciled, but it takes the mother a good deal more to overcome her inability to let things loose, and in the end her son winds up in jail, possibly for some time. A wreck of a man, without self-esteem or self-control, he's the victim to a great extent of his mother's fear that he'll go off and kill himself like his father did.
Absent fathers all over the show here.
The NZ film was enjoyable, though the ending seemed a bit truncated for my liking. It didn't go for the intense tone of the French movie, thank goodness, and had that likable quality that's so typical of a NZ film. Very good cast, and well put together.
Photos of Claude Chabrol, and Scott Wills (the weak man in Apron Strings).