Saturday, 30 May 2015

Gemma Bovery

This week - with another late Australian release of a French film - comes Gemma Bovery from director Anne Fontaine, and based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds. 

Martin (Fabrice Luchini) lives in a small Norman village, working as a baker. Soon an English couple move in nearby, Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and Charles (Jason Flemyng) Bovery. Martin is instantly intrigued by them. He is an avid reader of Gustave Flaubert's work, and sees a similarity between Gemma & Charles, and the characters in Madame Bovery. Martin intensely observes the couple, particularly Gemma. Gemma seems to live in her own dreamworld and soon starts to stray from Charles, despite Martin's attempts to prevent it from happening.

Gemma Bovery opens with some beautifully shot, alluring footage of dough being needed in Martin's bakery, from there though, it's all downhill. The problem with this film seems to be a mixture of plot and delivery. I just couldn't get myself involved in the story or find any common interest in the characters. They all seem to be in a dazy, dream-like state as they go about their everyday affairs, and the concept of this couple mirroring (in Martin's eyes) the characters from a Gustave Flaubert's work Madame Bovery, whilst an intriguing premise, is just utterly unbelievable. The couple just happen to have the last name Bovery and then unwittingly copy the lifestyle of their literary equals? Is this actually real or in Norman's head? It's a format which can make for some enthralling stories, if done correctly. However with Gemma Bovery, it comes off as too confusingly self-reflexive, whilst lacking anything captivating enough to keep my interest. 

There's a surreal element to Gemma Bovery which overpowers the performances to the extent that it's difficult to judge the abilities of the actors. Fabrice Luchini brings a wonderful passion to Martin, but his character's reflexive nature and odd moralistic concerns don't really hit it home for me. Many have praised Gemma Arterton (Strawberry Fields from Quantum of Solace, in case you were wondering) for her performance, but I'm not so sure. I think the dazy nature of Gemma meant that she was the weakest of the main characters, and didn't provide the interest that I was looking for. Isabelle Candelier has more of a supporting role, however her character - Valérie - was much more well rounded overall.

As I mentioned before, there's some beautiful imagery going on here, that wouldn't be out of place in a film like Two or Three Things I Know About Her, some of it is unusually sensual - seriously, what is it with French characters and turning cooking into an erotic premise? - but ultimately this film fails to draw out any sort of emotions from its audience.

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