A WOMAN’S LIFE/ Une Vie
West Coast Premiere • Drama • France, 2016
DCP • 1.33 • Dolby 5.1 • Color • 119 min
Directed by: Stéphane Brizé
Written by: Stéphane Brizé, Florence Vignon
Based on the book by: Guy de Maupassant
Cinematography: Antoine Héberlé
Film Editing: Anne Klotz
Produced by: Miléna Poylo, Gilles Sacuto (TS Production), France 3 Cinéma, F comme Film
Cast: Judith Chemla (Jeanne), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (Le Baron), Yolande Moreau (La Baronne), Swann Arlaud (Julien), Nina Meurisse (Rosalie), Clotilde Hesme (Gilberte de Fourville)
International Sales: MK2
U.S. Distributor: Kino Lorber
Winner of the prestigious Prix Louis-Delluc for 2016, A Woman’s Life brings a formalistic rigor to Guy de Maupassant’s essential French novel Une Vie; the result is a rare costume drama that refuses to romanticize the world it depicts. Spanning the life of the aristocratic but essentially powerless Baroness Jeanne Le Perthius des Vauds, the saga begins in Normandy 1819, when Jeanne is leaving the convent where she has been raised and educated. Jeanne’s sheltered and idyllic upbringing sets her up for a lifetime of bitter disappointments beginning with an arranged marriage to Julien de Lamare. Her imagined prince charming quickly turns into a philandering ne’er-do-well after he gains control of Jeanne’s inheritance. Tight framing, elliptical scenes, and shifting timelines lend immediacy to this moving depiction of a woman boxed in by a repressive society organized first and foremost to preserve the privilege of a few highborn men. Judith Chemla’s meticulous performance as Jeanne earned a nomination for a 2017 Best Actress César Award.
Those who have followed the career of writer/director Stéphane Brizémight be surprised by his foray into period drama. His most recent films were the somber, Bergmanesque A Few Hours of Spring (COLCOA 2013) and the social realist drama Measure of a Man (2015), which boasted only one professional actor – repeat collaborator Vincent Lindon. But what might be a stylistic departure still contains common Brizé themes: the difficulties of romantic relationships and the seeming impossibility of communicating one’s deepest feelings to others. For the task of adapting Guy de Maupassant’s sprawling classic, Brizé reunited with co-writer Florence Vignon. The pair previously won a César Award for their adaptation of Eric Holder’s novel about forbidden love, Brizé’s fourth feature, Mademoiselle Chambon (COLCOA 2009). Among its many accolades, A Woman’s Life was awarded the coveted FIPRESCI Award at the 2016 Venice Film Festival.