Three years ago director Luc Bondy staged Pierre de Marivaux’s 18th century play “The False Confessions” at the Odeon Theater in Paris (Bondy died a year later) and he was fortunate to have the illustrious Isabelle Huppert as his star, along with Louis Garrel as the male star. Deciding to also make a film of the work, he shot it in the same theater in the midst of the play’s run. That tactic, perhaps necessary in terms of commitments, was not a particularly good idea.
This is play comically rooted in romance and intrigue. The basic plot involves Garrel as the money-needing Dorante being manuplated into a job in the household of the wealthy widow Araminte, played by the ever-interesting Huppert. Dorante has a crush on Araminte, and the twisting plot involves various subterfuges and maneuvers. Of course, money is involved.
The play is stylized, but shooting it in the theater makes for a stiffness that could have been avoided had the filming been on a sumptuous location more natural for moviemaking. The atmosphere here is confining and at the end we see the principals leaving the theater, giving a note of intrusive reality and taking us down a peg from what we have just seen unfolding.
One would not think it possible but Huppert, her excellent acting notwithstanding, doesn’t come across well visually. She is shot from angles and distances that sometimes make her look insignificant instead of with the kind of camerawork that generally flatters her.
“False Confessions” projects a measure of charm and satire, and the supporting cast is worthy, but the film as a whole comes across as more forced than smooth. A Big World Pictures release. Reviewed July 14, 2017.