A Southern France tourist-porn adaptation of Francois Mauriac’s Thérèse Desqueyroux, director Claude Miller’s final film begins by indulging in postcard landscapes and femmes-in-summertime tableaux. Soon, the novel’s subtly formidable tale kicks in: A prickly, practical interbellum maiden (Audrey Tautou) marries a wealthy lug (Gilles Lellouche) and eventually finds herself stranded in provincial nothingness, as her sister-in-law (Anaïs Demoustier) discovers passionate romance and the new landowning family clamps down hard.
Mauriac’s interior monologues are swapped out for Tautou glumly staring off into the distance (as well as some alarming daydream sequences), but the story’s central tragedy—Thérèse deciding to not stop her oafish husband from overdosing on his arsenic prescription—now reads like a prefeminist moan of rage worthy of Wharton, one that’s handled by Miller with his typical unhurried sobriety. It’s a nice complement to Georges Franju’s moodier, modernized 1962 version (which made a primal-noir prison out of the estate’s surrounding forests; Miller treats them Impressionistically), though bourgie audiences looking for a sun-warmed romance will be slapped; the movie may look pretty and may plod, but it also leaves a bruise.
Cast and crew