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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 14 July 2007
"Gabrielle" is an intense and emotional story based on Joseph Conrad's lesser known novel "The Return". This period French language drama tells the tale of a marital crisis in the household of a respectable ,successful but unemotional French businessman. He returns home from work one day to find a letter from his wife saying that she has left him for another man.However shortly after he reads this letter, she returns back home, apparently having changed her mind. The rest of the film is devoted to discussions and arguments between the flabbergasted and distraught cuckolded husband ,who now believes that his wife is a stranger ,and his saddened, distant and unrepentant spouse. "Gabrielle" is a well acted and impressive film that dissects the nature of relationships and marriage very well.
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on 29 December 2006
Directed by Patrice Chéreau's this dreamlike interpretation of Joseph Conrad's short story The Return, starring the lovely Isabelle Huppert, certainly isn't the type of period movie that you take your mother to. In this claustrophobic and rather subversive film, her abusive husband damages an aristocratic woman until she is almost stripped dramatically naked.

The film is set in Paris in 1912 and the upper-class couple is Jean and Gabrielle Hervey (played by Huppert and Pascal Greggory). They live a life of exclusivity, holding lavish dinner parties in a brocaded world of seemingly impeccable comfort. But after ten years their charmed life is bereft of any kind of intimacy, even though Jean boasts that neither are in need of closeness.

No longer sexual with each other, and sleeping in twin beds, the arrogant Jean treats his wife like an object, intent to flatter her for her impeccable style. Gabrielle, who has resigned herself to an eventually loveless marriage, has now made gestures toward freedom. She's been having a secret affair with a man whom Jean detests and as the movie opens, has left her husband for him.

Mysteriously though, Gabrielle tries to reverse her decision and returns home, just as Jean finds her confession. Of course, he is shattered, just like the wine glass that he drops as he reads the letter, for he cannot believe that she would do such a thing. They both argue and bicker, with Gabrielle standing by her decision and forced to enter into a type of confessional about why she left in the first place.

Most of the story focuses on both characters' individual need to connect as they try to dissect their marriage and their reasons for being together. At first, Jean is very concerned about impropriety and what others might think, but then he is confounded that his wife no longer loves him, whilst Gabrielle is devastated at Jean's apparent pomposity and his inability to understand her needs.

So why does Gabrielle come back? It's never really made that clear; she says that she just could not go through with it, but as Chéreau slowly draws out the true identities from under the characters' respective corset and dinner jacket, we get to see a battle of the sexes take place, where both of these damaged and bitter people fight for dominance.

The film is stagey and talky and might be a bit much for some viewers, and both the main protagonists aren't that likable as they bicker on stairways and over dinner as the maids surreptitiously circle around them, feeding them dinner, and furtively listening whilst also trying to remain discreet.

Huppert is ravishing as Gabrielle and she has the more difficult role of trying to assert her dominance over her husband who is very typical of the patriarchal society of the time. Whilst Greggory's Jean starts out as over confident and self important, oozing a kind of upper-class snobbery and artificial contentment, it is Gabrielle who ends up the stronger of the two as she gradually lays herself emotionally bare.

Eric Gautier's swirling cinematography does a great job of complimenting the story, as his camera persistently spins around these characters who seem to be trapped in this claustrophobic and moribund world - indeed the house itself looks like an expensive and grand mausoleum.

Gabrielle is a woman who was obviously a product of her time and the fact that she speaks out as she does is quite unique. But the film also serves as a quite startling look at the dark side of one couple, as their marriage, now devoid of all the social expectations surrounding it, slowly and irrevocably disintegrates. Mike Leonard December 06.
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on 10 November 2007
a rich and succesful business man has been married for ten years to an intelligent and pretty wife, but beneath the glittering surface sexual interest has waned.
Suddenly she leaves a note to say that she has fallen in love and left him, but she returns a few hours later. He is bewildered, angry and distraught. His probing fails to explain why she has left him and, still more, why she has come back. After an attempted rape and his inability to respond to her sexual invitation, he storms out on her never to return. The story is set in the nineteenth century world of servants and lavish dinner parties, but there are really only two characters in the film. The others are observers rather than participants. Chereau introduces variety by alternating black and white with colour photography and background music with silence, but the rationale is not always obvious.
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on 14 November 2011
French screenwriter and director Patrice Chéreau`s tenth feature film which he co-wrote with French screenwriter Anne-Louise Trividic and produced, is an adaptation of a novel called "The Return" from 1897 by Polish author Joseph Conrad. It was screened In competition at the 62nd Venice Film Festival in 2005 and is a France-Italy co-production. It tells the story about a wealthy and succsessful middle-aged man named Jean Hervey who returns home on the 10th anniversary of his marriage and finds a letter written by his wife named Gabrielle containing shocking confessions that causes an array of questions.

This visually captivating period piece is a gripping and efficient chamber drama set in a bourgeois milieu where French filmmaker Patrice Chéreau portrays a married couple`s crucial confrontation after a consequential revelation brings everything up to the surface. With stunning cinematography by French cinematographer Eric Gautier, production design by French production designer and art director Olivier Radot, costume design by costume designer Caroline De Vivaise, timely score by composer Fabio Vacchi, a detailed and well written story, an interesting study of character and astute filming, this atmospheric and close to theatrical tale about love and marriage stands out and is empowered by Pascal Greggory and Isabelle Huppert`s ardent lead performances.
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From the opening atmospheric shots in black and white of a crowded Parisian railway station in the age of the Belle Epoque, we are immediately engrossed within a claustrophobic world where nothing seems clear. Music reminiscent of Ravel's `La Valse' adds to the sense of a deeply unsettled world beneath the ostensible platitudes of bourgeois existence. (The music was composed by Fabio Vacchi, previously unknown to this reviewer, but whose modern-sounding work nevertheless possesses heavy does of Ravel or of Debussy's wild and unchained impressionist expressionism. The soundtrack also reminded me at one moment of Bartok's `Bluebeard's Castle': how apt!)

Patrice Chereau's film, based in the Monceau area of paris, is an interpretation of a short story by Joseph Conrad, exploring the inner life of a bourgeois couple. Those who have read Conrad (his best known novellas are `Heart of Darkness' and `The Secret Agent', but for me the novel `Nostromo' is arguably his best) will be aware of his use of language, his employment of strict and precisely-chosen words, but chosen by someone whose first language was no English. They will see his writing style reproduced faithfully in the film.

Jean, the husband, narrates how he met his wife ten years ago. He tells us how, "I love her as a collector does his most prized item. Once acquired, it becomes his sole reason to live ... We have no intimacy, nor need of any ... I have no need for affairs ... just twin beds and two nightstands, and Gabrielle in the other bed." And then he sees the note his wife has left him on his desk, telling how she has left him; all hell breaks loose into his life. She, realising her mistake, returns only a few hours later. But the worst of it all is her return. She laughs when Jean says he forgives her.

The rest of the film sees their circumstances explored both in the conversations they have with each other and the ones they have with third parties, including the servants. They see each other and their relationship anew; re-assessments are made of life, love, friends, and foes. Some honest but shocking things are said to each other, "telling true things from utter confusion" as Jean puts it. How can a man get his wife so wrong! Ten years of solid foundations turned into sand in a matter of hours. Jean's very foundations of being are shaken by what he learns; his self-assurance is shattered as he comes to realise he is still rejected. Alas, many of us have been there: I was powerfully moved.

As well as the fantastic performances of the two leading players - Pascal Greggory as Jean and Isabelle Huppert as Gabrielle - and the marvellous soundtrack, the detailing of the production design, much of the power of the movie is down to the superb editing. This is the second Patrice Chereau film that I have seen at the cinema and been drawn to buy the DVD. The other was `Son Frere'. Now I am drawn to explore his earlier work.

A word or two about the extras. Firstly, there are three deleted scenes, each introduced by the director. Secondly, there are interviews, conducted in French but with English subtitles, with the director and his two leads. Here, Chereau explains that Gabrielle's line, "Had I believed you loved me, I'd have never come back", sums up the meaning of the film. Meanwhile, the actors have some interesting insights to relate about the characters that they play. Huppert comments on the intimacy of the film, seeing and feeling the bare bones of the characters, the audience being witness to their torment. Finally, there is an interview with the director in English. Here he repeats much that has already been said, but he also elaborates further on such issues as the balance between the colour elements of the film and those shot in black and white.
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on 25 March 2009
The two leads are extremely good but this is an unsatisfactory film. It feels like a short story in every way, spun out to make just about a film's length (it is only 82 minutes of running time, the rest credits). The attempt to flesh out the original Conrad story by giving some of sort of character and motivation to Isabelle Huppert's wife is not successful - the words she is given by the scriptwriter make her seem more mad than sad - and although she does her level best, it ends by being simply unconvincing. The final three scenes at the end of the film (as it has been (re-)written) beggar belief - what was Chereau thinking? The movie is generally uneven, and divided into three distinct styles - with an extended voiceover introduction externalising the thoughts of the husband; followed by a very talky soiree evening with whizzing subtitles; and then a series of barely sensible, half-finished exchanges between the main leads and also a reluctant maid acting as confidante to the wife. Atmospheric, but empty, rather like the music and the irritating switches from Colour to Black and White. Great acting, but get ready to be disappointed.
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on 29 December 2014
Excellent purchase; super condition.
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on 26 October 2014
Très bien!
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on 28 May 2008
As a fan of french cinema, I was very much looking forward to this film, but was quite disappointed. I found it tedious, slow and unengaging. A lot of effort was made to imbue a dark, gothic sense of atmosphere through the music, lighting and backdrops and pregnant pauses, but the result just seemed over-contrived and pretentious. Gabrielle was mildly intriguing as a character primarily because of her cold aloofness, even in such an emotional crisis, but the curiousity of that element wears off to leave you with a weak plot, badly drawn characters and excessive and unaffecting atmosphere. Not quite bad enough to give up on it or walk out, but definitely not one for my collection.
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