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on July 4, 2010
Catherine Breillat often confounds me in her work, but BLUEBEARD is relatively straightforward, and I felt I was tracking the whole way. It should be said that there are two parallel stories, one set in the 15th century, and the other set in the 1950's. I suppose there could be some controversy over which story is supposed to reflect on the other, or whether we really have to choose at all. Suffice it to say, the two stories alternate, somewhat like the present and past segments in Godard's WEEKEND or Bunuel's MILKY WAY. BLUEBEARD clearly resembles those films in it's complete disregard of verisimilitude. What interests Breillat is not realism, but iconography. It simply doesn't matter that the wardrobe appears as if it was rented from the corner costume shop.

The Bluebeard story is framed by two sisters who are reading the story in the 1950's. The younger of the two, "Catherine," has surpassed her older sister emotionally and academically and enjoys scaring her with her bloody descriptions of the Bluebeard story. It is a dynamic of sibling rivalry whose ending is at least as dire as that of "Bluebeard" itself.

The 15th century story concerns two other sisters who are (hilariously, to my taste) ejected from parochial school when their father dies. Now impoverished, the younger sister, Marie-Catherine, agrees to marry Bluebeard to save her family's fortunes. This portion of the film has more of the old familiar reversals of sexual dynamics that we have come to love and loathe in Breillat's work.

As a whole, the movie has many very funny moments. If you only know Breillat from the likes of FAT GIRL or BRIEF CROSSING, I promise you will be surprised and delighted. Nothing against those films. FAT GIRL made me revere Breillat, and BRIEF CROSSING so infuriated me, I have no choice but to regard it as a total success.

Still, among the ten Breillat films seen stateside since 1988, this is easily the most pleasant and approachable, without abandoning the themes the director has been working at so consistently. Enjoy it.
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on October 7, 2010
When a fairy tale resonates enough to be told and retold over several centuries, as many of Charles Perrault's folktale adaptations have, one must presume them to hold a certain quality that transcends the typical story. Bluebeard, for instance, being so dark and laced with such innate fears, would perhaps qualify for a modern spin. Times indeed have changed somewhat since Perrault first set word to page, and though Bluebeard has been adapted many times since, there's always room for a new version, that's part of the beauty of a folk tale isn't it? That spin that's added over time?

Director Catherine Briellat's version achieves only in flattening out the depth in the tale, of leaching the fear from the characters, and washing over the cinematic pallet with cheap Hal loween style costumes and reused sets. Yes, yes, I see that perhaps the `staged' quality of the Bluebeard story within a story (two little girls are actually reading the book in the 50s) may imply that it is `constructed' within the mind - a fiction. And yes, I get that the cheap costumes may serve metaphorically to emphasis that riches are only on the surface, and that this `rags' to `riches' tale is a trap. And finally, yes, I see that perhaps the reusing of the sets may imply that the lead - Bluebeard's young wife - really doesn't get anywhere, her journey is stagnated. Alas, the potential for metaphor is bursting from this over-ripe fruit in place of flavor and emotion.

The two tales, that of Bluebeard in its Renaissance Fair setting, and the sisters reading the story in their treasure trove attic, are oddly disconnected. While the four young girls are charming enough to carry a well directed film, here they seem to just be doing there own thing, just with memorized lines. Only the long still shots work in this film. So much so that as images in a story book, a selection of well staged shots might serve Briellat better. When run together as a film, it's a mess.

With all the negativity aside, I've seen worse films. I do think this film has a few things going for it, though perhaps not intentionally so. I was deeply engaged as I watched, trying to piece together something that ultimately was not there, but anytime a film engages you, it stands to some degree above others that do not. Perhaps others may find more here than I, but I can't recommend.
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on June 22, 2010
Catherine Breillat's "Bluebeard" is elegant, but slow and sleek. The movie is 78 minutes long, and the conflict takes a long time to show up. The beginning of the film, while an important part to any story, drags its feet and numbs the audience. Viewers might have a hard time enjoying this otherwise decent film because it takes a while to get started.

There are two stories--one of two little girls who read "Bluebeard" in an attic, and one of two young women who experience it. Both pairs are sisters.

Marilou Lopes-Benites plays the funny and engaging little girl who reads to her squeamish older sister. Their scenes occasionally interrupt the main story. What is storytelling in the attic becomes narration in Bluebeard's world. Lola Créton plays the precocious young woman who eventually marries Bluebeard, an aristocrat who is rumored to have killed all his previous wives.

These two actresses, along with Bluebeard himself (Dominique Thomas) are the ones to watch. Their actions actually contribute to the story. The other two sisters do nothing but oppose and hinder their siblings.

But time goes by very slowly in Bluebeard's world. There are a lot of uneventful scenes. Sometimes the characters are simply feasting, which adds to the dark sensuality of the film, but does nothing for the story itself.

"Bluebeard" is also sleek because it isn't weighed down by a lot of extraneous plotlines. Once Bluebeard gets married again, the film focuses on the married couple and how they interact. Nor is the screen cluttered; every mise en scène is very minimalist.

Bluebeard's environment is also nice to look at. The food looks appetizing, and the eaters seem to enjoy themselves. There are also statues, jewels, and rich dresses.

It's a wonder Brellait managed to make the film as long as she did; fairy tales usually don't take that long to tell. But she excels at two things: painting a visually exquisite picture of a simple story, and making it dark and scary enough that adults will want to watch it without their kids.

Bluebeard is a very suspicious person, and the nonchalant way he talks with his newest bride might put audiences on high alert, which can be both thrilling and nerve-wracking.

But the director dedicates the majority of the film to the first half of the plot, rather than the second. By dwelling on the wrong half of the story, Brellait makes "Bluebeard" less engaging than it could've been.
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on June 19, 2012
Catherine Breillat is an amazing director who, while staying true to the original, tells the story through new light and gives it depth.
You will find yourself both sympathizing with and loathing Dominique Thomas as Barbe Bleue.
The lovely Lola Créton easily steals the show with her performance of Marie-Catherine, a young girl who dreams of riches and luxury and intends on getting it even if she has to marry "an old goat" like Bluebeard.
Marilou Lopes-Benites and Lola Giovannetti will have you laughing with delight and Daphné Baiwir deserves special acknowledgement for giving depth and life to Sister Anne.
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on January 5, 2013
Yes, I only gave this two stars. However, to give this film it's due, it was beautifully costumed, scripted, and acted. BUT, and there is a big BUT, there is an unsettling ending to this film, that I'll not reveal, however, in fairness to this film, being based on the fairy tale Bluebeard...perhaps I should have expected it.
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Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard) (Catherine Breillat, 2009)

I have an odd relationship with the works of Catherine Breillat. I know many, many people who revere her films as masterpieces of transgressive cinema; I know an equal number, give or take a few, who find them loathsome, exploitative crap masquerading as art cinema. I can see both sides of the argument, but I have yet to be able to figure out which side of it I'm on. There just isn't anything about Breillat's work that excites me one way or the other; I seem to have this same problem with Gaspar Noe. While Bluebeard—of the Breillat works I have seen to date, by far the most accessible to a general audience—did not break through that barrier, it's come the closest.

If you know your fairy tales, you know the story here. Unspeakably wealthy chap Bluebeard (22 Bullets' Dominique Thomas) goes looking for a wife and stumbles upon beautiful, innocent Marie-Catherine (Goodbye First Love's Lola Créton). The two have a whirlwind romance, get married, and then Bluebeard has to go away on business. He gives Marie-Catherine the run of the castle, with one exception—there's one door she can't open. But, of course, he gives her the key anyway. (Chastity belt analogy, anyone?) Will she be able to resist temptation to look behind that door and see what secrets Bluebeard has hidden away?

Breillat, of course, gives us more than that. Bluebeard and Marie-Catherine do not live in a vacuum; while Marie-Catherine's fortunes have risen mightily in the world, she makes the effort to keep ties to her family, especially her sister (Monsieur Batgnole's Daphné Baiwir), and Breillat sets a framing device in place regarding a pair of contemporary sisters (Marilou Lopes-Benites in her first screen role and Lady Blood's Lola Giovannetti), one of whom is reading the story to the other. Which sounds like a horrid piece of artifice, and if you've seen more than one Breillat film you know that's a possibility—but it works here better than it does in something like Fat Girl. (I want to compare it, oddly, to Svankmajer, but I didn't make enough notes to draw that comparison convincingly, so I'll just leave that out there.)

Never encountered Breillat before? Encountered her and were unimpressed? Give Barbe Bleue a try; it may just change your mind. *** ½
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on July 24, 2011
I first noticed this on Amazon video stream and at once I was obsessed with seeing it. When I finally got it, my expectations were incredibly high, so I suppose initially I was a teensy bit disappointed only because--as others have said--the movie's overall progression is slow paced. Many others say this film should be a short rather than a full feature. I disagree! Take into consideration that the original fairytale by Charles Perrault would only take a moment to read aloud, which mean the director Catherine Breillat would have a large amount of filler to add in to beef up the story and define the characters with. I'm rather impressed. I really did like this film, though I would not give it a full 5 stars but do not think it was a flop or deserving of less than 3.

I thought that the parallelism between the narrator and her sister (Catherine and Marie-Anne) while telling the story of the two sisters in the story (Marie-Catherine and Anne) was an interesting take on how to execute this film. Plus I adored Catherine! She was a silly little thing and she will make you laugh. I admired both Catherine and Marie-Catherine very much and they make fitting protagonists. Though...I both disliked the actress who played Marie-Catherine's sister Anne and the character Anne herself. She was too melodramatic and angsty while crying through her nose. It was somewhat distracting to me.
The relationship between Bluebeard and his new wife Marie-Catherine is particularly exceptional. Their relationship is innocent, simple, and delicate. Because of this director, I was expecting (actually dreading) that this movie (since unrated) would turn out to be highly sexual but it was not. If curious, I would rate this movie myself at about PG or PG-13 (because of how dark the nature of the movie is).

Suspense is created by foreshadowing of Bluebeard's fate such as in the beginning where there is the statue of decapitated bodies and a figure standing above the rest while the sisters are still at a nunnery, at Bluebeard's party where a maid cuts of the head of a duck and a mesmerized Marie-Catherine stands to watch. There are hundreds of little things that are displayed and acted out to become symbolic, like how Marie-Catherine eats quail eggs while Bluebeard eats an ostrich egg to differentiate standing, physical status, nature etc. I enjoyed the dialogue in itself because not a line was wasteful and pertained to a greater meaning.

If you pay attention to the Easter eggs that are planted throughout the film, then you should have no problem with Bluebeard, but if you are waiting for that giant heart-racing conflict to happen halfway through you will be sorely disappointed because this film isn't the sprinter. It's dark and reflective, needing to be savored rather than gulped down. I would say give it a chance; it's really a beautiful retelling of a classic tale.
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on February 22, 2011
This movie is beautiful and atmospheric but doesn't move as quickly as many may expect, in part due to it being based on a short fairy tale (which the filmmakers were careful not to ruin by including too much that may have compromised the arc of the original story) as well as the director's style which is perfectly suited to this pace. That being said, if you enjoy gothic, elegant and deliberately slow paced movies you will probably like Bluebeard. I would like to have seen more melodrama at certain points which would have lent a lively kicker to a few spots but I found no significant weak elements worth mentioning. The best way to view this movie is to NOT read the short story first so that you will discover it as the movie plays out and will enjoy the suspense even more. Overall a fine movie for those who have the patience to see it through.
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on March 18, 2015
The symbolism in the movie was interesting but I feel like the movie lacked convincing characters which made it hard to care about them.
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on September 5, 2011
One of my favorites - but kind of slow.
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