This review is from: Mademoiselle (DVD)
a schoolteacher in some French village, a spinster, (who surely can't be unattractive since played by Jeanne Moreau), is an incarnation of evil: she opens the gates to flood the village corrals, burns the barns and houses (causing at least one death), poisons cattle pond, causing major distress and devastation.
why? because of her (surely sick and twisted) love to an Italian seasonal worker, who comes in the summer to cut trees in the nearby forest. incarnation of manliness, real macho, he slept with probably most of the wives and daughters of the village men, but otherwise he's harmless and good-natured if somewhat primitive man.
at the end of the film Italian is killed by the posse when locals become convinced that he's behind all the calamities visited on their village since he came to do his seasonal work. nobody suspects Mademoiselle, and she even implicates him in the rape after their night of love in the fields (shown in long frighteningly detailed scenes) .
Italian worker's son is Mademoiselle's pupil, and she treats him in school harshly, to say the least. The boy, who's probably around 13, falls in love with her nevertheless, and when he finds out that she's the arsonist, he keeps it to himself, even though he has plenty of reasons to denounce her to the local authorities.
the film is amazingly good, another example of the "unknown great cinema". there are some more obvious moments, for instance when the camera is showing Mademoiselle's pupil reflecting the burning barn (which she has put to fire). but otherwise the film is very realistic and complex, its power mostly in the director's vision, camerawork and absolutely beautiful cast.
I was surprised to learn (after i watched the film) that Tony Richardson is the director. I like his "The Loved One" very much, but "Mademoiselle" is so different in any and every respect that i'd have never guessed it's the same author. I like his "kitchen sink realism" films too, obviously, but Mademoiselle does stand out.
and this film is so French - it's difficult to believe it's been produced by a British director, even though Jean Genet wrote the original story, and Marguerite Duras was a scriptwriter.
is Tony Richardson misogynistic? I think this is a very superficial view. don't jump to conclusions. First watch his The Loved One - and you'll see clearly that he's not misogynistic. He's misanthropic. Ugly, ignorant and xenophobic villagers, reminding of Breughel, their women falling en masse for the beautiful Italian who's shown more like a nice animal rather than fully human... and the main character, Mademoiselle, as a metaphor of God's punishment sent to the humans for their sinful ways...