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Last Mistress, The (Une Vieille Maitresse) (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/10/2007

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 114 mins

Breillat's most commercial film to date is an enjoyable costume drama that plays like an arthouse sequel to Dangerous Liaisons and features an utterly bonkers performance from Asia Argento.

What's it all about?
Set in the late 1700s and based on the 1850s novel by Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly, The Last Mistress stars Fu'ad Ait Aattou as foppish lothario Ryno de Marigny, who agrees to give up his lusty mistress, Vellini (Asia Argento) in order to marry his naively innocent bride, Hermangarde (Roxanne Mesquida). However, the fiery Vellini doesn't take kindly to their decade-long relationship being shoved aside and she pursues the pair to their coastal getaway, intent on seducing Marigny.

The Good
The Last Mistress plays like an arthouse sequel to Dangerous Liaisons, making it director Catherine Breillat's least controversial, and therefore most commercial, film to date. However, it remains thematically consistent with her other films, as it's essentially about the power of female sexuality and its role within society.

Aattou makes a solid lead, despite looking an awful lot like a male version of Scarlett Johansson and there's strong support from Roxanne Mesquida and Claude Sarraute as Hermangarde's grandmother. However, the main reason to see the film is an utterly bonkers performance from Asia Argento, who really throws herself into the role, whether she's licking blood from Marigny's wounds, smashing a glass in his hand or casually tossing off an adios to a discarded lover.

The Bad
The period detail is excellent, particularly when it comes to Vellini's increasingly bizarre dress sense. There are also several superb scenes – a brief flashback sequence involving a child, a scorpion and a subsequent burial-slash-sex scene is a marvel of economical story-telling that is nonetheless powerfully emotional and genuinely shocking.

That said, the film is rather dialogue heavy in places and it's often difficult to engage with the characters as a result.

Worth seeing?
While not as shocking as Breillat's previous films, The Last Mistress is still an enjoyable costume drama that's worth seeing for Asia Argento's gloriously bonkers performance.

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Last Mistress, The (Une Vieille Maitresse) (18)
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Content updated: 21/09/2018 21:21

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