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Catherine Breillat intercuts Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of the murderous nobleman Bluebeard (Dominique Thomas) and his blushing bride Marie-Catherine (Lola Crton) with a modern-era framing story, in which a young girl retells the fable to her older sister. It’s a brilliant bit of interplay, and no one is safe from the parable’s repercussions. Breillat gets terrific performances from her cast, especially the adorable yet malevolent narrator, played by Marilou Lopes-Benites, and the glumly hirsute Thomas. The latter’s overbearing physicality is especially important to Breillat’s vision of a world where patriarchy reigns supreme. Bluebeard’s female characters define themselves in counterpoint to the rule of men by reading and acting between the lines of social acceptability. Their defiance leads neither to neither tragedy nor triumph, but some discomfiting amalgam of the two. In the film’s final image, Marie-Catherine earns a memorably vengeful token of her time with Bluebeard, yet Breillat can’t help but intently study the character’s damaged expression, which suggests she’s far beyond the aid of an Aesop moral. Sunday, Oct 11 at 2pm.—Keith Uhlich

See Twitter posts about Bluebeard at FlickTweets.

New York Film Festival 2009

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