Confession Of A Child Of The Century (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/12/2012

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Rock star Pete Doherty doesn't exactly disgrace himself in this French period drama (he is, after all, playing a libertine), but the film is painfully slow and never really sparks to life thanks to a dull script and lacklustre performances.

What's it all about?
Directed by Sylvie Verheyde, Confession of a Child of the Century is based on the semi-autobiographical 1836 novel by Alfred de Musset. Rock star Pete Doherty makes his film acting debut as Octave, a young aristocrat who's crushed when he discovers that his mistress (Lily Cole, underused) has been unfaithful and throws himself into a life of licentiousness, accompanied by his best friend and fellow libertine Desgenais (August Diehl).

When Octave's father dies, he moves to the country, whereupon he meets and falls in love with provincial widow Brigitte (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Initially she resists his advances, but she eventually succumbs and the pair move to Paris together, only for jealousy to rear its ugly head.

The Good
Doherty isn't quite as terrible as you might expect; he carries off the top hat and frock coat look with aplomb and has a good line in blank-faced melancholy. Unfortunately, that's all he has, so the romantic scenes lack anything resembling a spark and there's no chemistry between him and any of his co-stars. Gainsbourg is fine as Brigitte and there's strong support from Diehl, but the film has an annoying tendency to discard its best characters, which means that Diehl, Lily Cole and Isild De Bosco (as a mysterious woman whose advances Octave rejects in a carriage, in the film's best scene) all disappear early on.

On the plus side, Thomas Grézaud's set design is impressively detailed and Esther Walz's costumes are so good that they will make you seriously consider buying a frock coat and top hat for at least two minutes afterwards. Similarly, Nicolas Gaurin's cinematography is suitably moody and atmospheric throughout.

The Bad
Unfortunately, the film is badly let down by the combination of a tedious script (not least Doherty's endless droning voiceover), lacklustre performances and a general lack of energy in the direction – at times the supposedly licentious orgies resemble a somnambulists' convention. On top of that, the pacing is interminable and there's precious little enough plot as it is, so the dragging feels particularly pronounced when stretched over two hours.

Worth seeing?
Confession of a Child of the Century has a certain curiosity value thanks to Pete Doherty's debut performance, but is ultimately disappointing thanks to a dull script, listless performances and non-engaging direction.

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Content updated: 19/07/2018 22:21

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