ROMANTIC DRAMA; 1hr 55min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Asia Argento, Fu’ad Aït Aattou
An oldie but a goodie: Aattou and Argento
Taking a turn for the relatively demure from 2004’s Anatomy of Hell (and was it ever), button-pounding director Catherine Breillat tackles a romantic drama set in the gilded confines of 19th-century Paris. The mistress of the title — adapted from Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly’s 1851 novel Une Vieille Maîtresse — is man-eating 36-year-old tamale Vellini (a fiery Argento, blazing like a pinwheel through every encounter), who for 10 years has sustained a torrid affaire with the impossibly cherubic and irksome Ryno de Marigny (Attaou). Since womanising Marigny is about to be married to porcelain belle Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida), propriety demands that his liaison with Vellini must cease post-haste. But Breillat has never been one for propriety...
Angst and verbiage are thick on the ground as Breillat scrolls back through Vellini and Marigny’s tormented relationship, and while the lovers’ mutual self-absorption makes a perfect push–pull match, its joyless palaver can be heavy going. Even the obligatory sex scenes seemed contrived, as choreographed in their graceful couplings as the most stately period soirée.