SFIFF The Rest of Saturday. A French Bad Marriage and American Shakespeare

I caught two pictures yesterday after Steven Soderbergh’s State of the Cinema Address. Both were shown in the Kabuki‘s large main theater. I liked both.

B+ Thérèse
In the late 1920s, Thérèse (Audrey Tautou of Amélie) marries the rich and conservative Bernard, who cares mostly about money and family honor. It’s a good match economically, but she almost immediately regrets the loveless and stifling relationship. When Bernard blocks his younger sister (Anaïs imageDemoustier of Living on Love Alone) from marrying a Jew, Thérèse fails to be the heroine that she might have been. Both the character and the film are emotionally remote, yet that’s not really a flaw here. Claude Miller’s final film examines a woman who has been robbed of her character and her ethics, and forced to become an accessory to her husband’s world view, and finds a downright creepy way of extracting revenge. This is a dark, sober film with patches of dry humor and some surprising turns.

There’s some confusion in the title. The Festival is calling it  Thérèse, but IMBD and the press release I’ve been given call it Thérèse Desqueyroux.

Whatever the name is, the Festival will screen the film one more time. Monday, April 29, at 6:30, at the New People Cinema. The movie is on the festival’s list of pictures that "have secured U.S. distribution or are in negotiations with a U.S distributor." In other words, it may play in American theaters.

A Much Ado About Nothing
Most of us don’t associate Joss Whedon–best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and The Avengers–with Shakespeare. Yet his adaptation of one of the Bard’s most popular comedies proves to be far better entertainment than Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 imageversion. Set in modern Italy and shot (in black and white) in Whedon’s own LA mansion, it makes the Elizabethan language sound natural as the characters talk about love, marriage, and jealousy. Much Ado has always been a tricky play to stage. Screamingly funny in the first half, it glides near the edge of Othello-like tragedy in the second. Yet that second half also brings in one of Shakespeare’s funniest characters, Dogberry (brilliantly played here by Nathan Fillion). Whedon keeps all of these mood changes and assorted characters working together flawlessly, for an exceptional entertainment.

After the screening, the film’s stars, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, took the stage for some Q&A. They talked about Whedon inviting friends over for Shakespeare-reading parties, and what a good time they had shooting this movie.

The Festival will screen Much Ado one more time: Monday, April 29, at 3:30, at the New People Cinema. The film will enjoy a theatrical release in June.

One quick technical note: Surprisingly, the Festival screened both Thérèse and Much Ado in 35mm. That’s particularly odd, not only because this film festival is showing very little physical film this year, but also because both films were shot digitally.