Gabrielle (2005)

Adaptation of a Conrad short story - fertile material for films; see also The Duellists - and a pitch-perfect bit of filmmaking from veteran Patrice Chereau. Unfolds with Hitchcockian precision and Bertolucci's foreboding grace, whilst remanining resolutely intimate. Tells the tale of a haute bourgeois gentleman's disillusionment and downfall because of his wife's leaving - and then returning to - his house one afternoon. Pascal Gregory is a study in fraying control as the man and Isabelle Huppert is his sphinx-like wife. As the story builds, with Gregory beginning as utterly assured and triumphant, and finally prowling his own cavernous mausoleum of a mansion like a starved lion, it delivers a merciless punchline. Both its poise as cinema and the subtle but scalpel-sharp character study show up a helluva lot of shit that passes for incisive filmmaking these days.

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