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The Last Mistress

Nominated ~ Cannes ~ Golden Palm

Catherine Breillat’s adaptation of a Barbey d’Aurevilly novel, The Last Mistress is that rare period piece in which characters and their relationships are rendered with as much precision and detail as the set and costumes. Everything in the film is stunning, from the opulent trappings of 19th century Parisian aristocracy to Asia Argento’s heartbreaking performance as the courtesan Vellini, and Breillat manages to make the story timelessly relevant as well. On the eve of his marriage to the meticulously brought up, wealthy, and icily beautiful Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida), Ryno de Marigny (Fu’ad Aït Aattou) has some loose ends to tie up, namely his ten-year affair with the Spanish divorcée Vellini. The older generation, who view love and marriage as little more than politics and fuel for witty conversation, look upon Ryno’s libertine past with indulgence, but speak of Vellini as if she is hardly human. The despair, need, and hatred that kept Ryno and Vellini together for ten years proves more difficult to put aside for the sake of a financially and socially fortunate match than any of the elders seemed to anticipate. The Last Mistress is a true pleasure to watch. The photography is more than equal to the beauty of the sets, costumes, and principal actors, and the visuals are as revealing of the film’s themes as the dialogue. The acting in The Last Mistress is stellar all around, but Asia Argento’s performance is brilliant. From the first moment she appears on screen, the audience is captivated. As the film progresses, she transforms the character from a desirable but morally bereft stereotype to a devastatingly real woman who experiences sexual love, hatred, and grief with a raw passion that is more moving than mere beauty. She maintains her exotic sexuality throughout, but brings an emotional intensity to the role that makes Vellini and her plight timeless. Every aspect of The Last Mistress works together to create a gorgeous, riveting, emotionally intense whole that many period films aspire to but few execute. It is about as perfect as a movie can get. – Niki Foster, Film Threat
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Directed by: 
Catherine Breillat
Running Time: 
French with English subtitles
Asia Argento, Fu'ad Aattou, Roxane Mesquida
Screenplay by: 
Catherine Breillat, based on the novel by Barbey d’Aurevilly

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