REVIEW – Mademoiselle Chambon (2009)

FilmJuice have my review of Stephane Brize’s drama Mademoiselle Chambon.

Based on a plot synopsis alone, Brize’s story of a happily married man who falls in love with his child’s primary school teacher might seem stupefyingly generic. After all, how many films do the French really need to make about attractive middle class people and their complex romantic entanglements? Despite the highly generic nature of its plot and themes, Mademoiselle Chambon in nonetheless a fascinating watch because Brize tells this very conventional story in an entirely unconventional manner:

Mademoiselle Chambon is a film that lives and dies by its awkward conversational pauses. These kinds of pauses will be familiar to fans of European art house film as they are widely used in that cinematic tradition to create an impression of psychological depth, the idea being that if you have the characters do something unusual and then allow the audience the time to speculate about why they did it, the insights they gain seem more profound and intelligent than if the characters had delivered them through dialogue. However, while these kinds of pauses usually hint at such unpalatable emotions as rage, sadness and alienation, Brize uses them in order to denote the presence of deep but well-hidden passion. Mademoiselle Chambon never directly addresses the love between Jean and Veronique, instead it traces the outline of their desire in the minutiae of everyday life.

While I was not entirely convinced by the way the film ended, I was nonetheless impressed by Brize’s approach to storytelling. His grasp of emotional nuance and his ability to explore those nuances through entirely non-verbal means makes Mademoiselle Chambon a great place to start acquiring an interest in art house film.