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The Widow of Saint-Pierre

4.0 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil. Powerful drama of a man sentenced to die in 19th century French Canada who rehabilitates himself, causing doubt in his would-be executioners. In French with English subtitles. 2000/color/108 min/R/fullscreen.

Special Features

  • Featurette
  • Commentary

Product Details

  • Actors: Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Emir Kusturica, Michel Duchaussoy, Philippe Magnan
  • Directors: Patrice Leconte
  • Writers: Patrice Leconte, Claude Faraldo
  • Producers: Daniel Louis, Denise Robert, Frédéric Brillion, Gilles Legrand
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: February 19, 2004
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005N89H
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,670 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Widow of Saint-Pierre" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Miles D. Moore on May 4, 2001
"The Widow of Saint-Pierre" is one of those brooding, romantic costume dramas that only the French seem to do well these days. Far from being escapist fare, it is a dark, often profound meditation on the human condition and the vagaries of the human heart. In 1849, on the remote French island of Saint-Pierre off the coast of Newfoundland, an illiterate fisherman commits a drunken, senseless murder and is sentenced to the guillotine. But since the island has no guillotine, the governor must send for one--a process that will take years. Meanwhile, the fisherman is imprisoned in the island fortress; the wife of the garrison commander takes pity on the condemned man, and sets out to rehabilitate him, with the help (at first reluctant, later wholehearted) of her loving husband. Soon the captain and his wife are defying the governor in their attempts to help the condemned man--with tragic consequences. "The Widow of Saint-Pierre" works on several levels: as a romantic drama; as a denunciation of capital punishment and the cruelty of confusing the letter of the law with justice; and as a brilliant delineation of the nature of love, courage and self-sacrifice. Eduardo Serra's photography of the wintry landscape of Saint-Pierre (actually Nova Scotia) is marvelous, and the acting deserves the highest praise. By now, of course, everyone knows how exquisite Juliette Binoche is, and she is as good as ever here. But the thespian honors in this movie go to Daniel Auteuil, an actor of masterful subtlety and power, who makes Gerard Depardieu look like a double order of "jambon a' l'os."
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Format: DVD
Set in 1849 on the Island of Saint Pierre off the coast of Canada, this 2001 French film is a sad and human drama about love, sin and redemption. The film starts with a senseless murder and a death sentence for the culprit, played by Emir Kustuica. However, the execution must be carried out by guillotine, which is referred to as "the widow" and there is no such instrument of death in the town. It has to be sent by ship from a French Island in the Caribbean. And this could take as long as a year.
The prisoner is under the control of a Captain, played by Daniel Auteuil. He is deeply in love with his wife, played by Juliette Binoche. There are some tender scenes of their lovemaking as well as scenes in which it is clear that he adores her and respects her in all ways. And so, when she sets out to reform the convicted murderer, he supports her wish. The convicted man is allowed out of his prison cell and accompanies her all over the province. He helps out the townspeople and works with her to plant a garden and learns to read. He even impregnates a local woman and marries her. Everyone in the town grows to admire this man and nobody wants the execution to take place.
What will happen? I was drawn into the story and, along with the townspeople, I too hoped he would eventually get his freedom. But the story is not as simple as that. And, as the tension heightened and moved towards its conclusion, I found myself clearly upset as I saw the way it was going.
This is a good film. The story and acting and cinematography are all excellent. It moved a little too slowly for my taste, however. And I found it hard to believe that the condemned man would be given so much freedom to move around the town. But this doesn't detract from the quality of the film, the empathy I felt throughout for all the characters or the subtleties of characterization that made the story seem real and poignant.
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Format: DVD
I find it odd that when reviewing the reviews of this film that people seem to either give it perfect or abysmal scores. The dichotomy of opinion is probably a direct result of the skill and immense power of Leconte's images, (especially those that his chosen actress affords us).

Leconte is a master and quite possibly the greatest living auteur currently making films. His movies often contain a refreshing difficulty that gives one hope that images still mean something, that film is still worthy of being explicated, that someone still cares enough to think that much without being overly clever such as the Coens and Anderson. I shouldn't say still. I should say is and will be, as Leconte is on a different level than any who has ever worked including Kieslowski (the master of images). I enjoy how Leconte has said that although it was his second period piece he approached the film as if that had nothing to do with it, learning from "Ridicule". I should point that out I have no problem with "Ridicule" and the fact that it is a period piece has a great deal to do with the presentation, but I can see what he meant. Like I said, I enjoy the statement, but I should also point out I'm a jerk.

Binoche and Auteuil are two of my favorite actors and this film shows them at their virtuosic best. They deliver amazing performances of a truly passionate couple who both hold unconditional love for the other which in itself contains ultimate trust of decision and character. Possibly more Auteuil's for Binoche's but the sympathy generated by his character fuels her as an equally sharing partner, making any difference negligible. There is a third character, Neel, but he is there only to accentuate the relationship between the other two.
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