Review: Eugénie Grandet – Cineuropa

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– Olivier Gourmet excels as a stingy capitalist who enslaves his daughter in search of freedom in this adaptation of Balzac’s uncompromising novel whose true essence is skillfully teased by Marc Dugain

Joséphine Japy in Eugenie Grandet

“Those who have no respect for money can have no hope of happiness.” ” Discover the world ? What can we you hope to get it? “,” Me at? The broth is more than enough “,” When are you going to get along and marry Eugenie? It’s not a hen in the spring and, with our bad luck, it’s not a catch. Empire, and in Saumur, deep in the French provinces, a young woman spends endless days at home, dividing her time between sewing, reading, looking out the window and a succession of frosty and formal meals with her mother and his father: “a life where nothing happens, which counts for nothing, waiting for the whims of men.”

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By adapting Balzacthe fierce novel of the same name to make the movie Eugenie Grandet [+see also:
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film profile
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, which is released today in French cinemas, courtesy of Ad Vitam, writer and filmmaker Marc Dugain, who has a keen interest in historical forays (Ordinary execution, The Royal Stock Exchange [+see also:
trailer
film profile
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), does not content itself with bringing to the fore a cruel but edifying staple of the canon of French literature with a perfectly incisive fidelity, it also endows it with modern echoes that fit perfectly into the current wave of questions understandable and feminist on the persistent hold of patriarchy and the denunciation of corruption in ultra-capitalist circles.

These vast societal issues are exposed by the novel and the film through a family microcosm and an obscure house dominated by Félix Grandet (the brilliant Olivier Gourmet), a wheel merchant who keeps a low profile as he fiercely negotiates land, stones, barrels, etc., while claiming to be poor and having even convinced his wife (Valerie Bonneton) and her daughter Eugenie (Josephine Japy) As such. As it stands, he considers and treats the latter as if it were personal property from which he could derive the greatest possible benefit; in other words, spend as little as possible on her dowry and strip her of her inheritance, if any. Devoured by a feverish greed for gold, Grandet is also voraciously possessive, and when Eugenie – dreaming, in her solitude, only of great romanticism – is seduced by a (dishonest) Parisian cousin passing through town (Caesar Domboy), her father literally cloisters her in his room, refusing to listen to his wife’s protests: “even if she died, and you with her, I would not forgive her anything”. It turns out that death is already catching on, and Eugenie’s great hopes for freedom seem more and more fanciful. But fate has more than one trick up its sleeve …

A sharp representation of the evils of everyday life and the shadows cast by the deification of money in a conformist provincial context characterized by rumors, intrigues and Sunday attendance, Eugenie Grandet weaves its web up close behind closed doors style, posing a powerful echo chamber for human society. It is an intimate story whose true essence Marc Dugain manages to decipher, thanks to well-judged temporal ellipses (even if the love at first sight phase goes a little too quickly), a magnificent work on light and faces. of the director of photography Gilles Porte, and, of course, a panoply of actors of great talent (Olivier Gourmet with his surprisingly sly selfishness and Joséphine Japy perfectly interpreted as a pure, innocent and idealistic victim, but also almost all the supporting roles). It is a feature film which once again demonstrates Balzac’s ruthless evocative power, and which denounces the fate reserved for women, whatever the era, when they are forced to undergo the domination of men with the blessing of society.

Eugenie Grandet is produced by High Sea Productions and Tribus P Films, in co-production with Ad Vitam, the Belgian Scope Pictures and the English company Featuristic Films, and is sold worldwide by Kinology.

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(Translated from French)


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