Friday, October 3, 2008

The Last Mistress (Rhoades)

‘Last Mistress’ Teases at Tropic

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

When watching a screener DVD of “The Last Mistress” – a costume drama about love and intrigue in 18th Century France – my guests were quite taken with the androgynous looks of the lead actor, a startlingly beautiful young man with the facial symmetry of a Calvin Klein model and the puffy lips of a male Angelina Jolie.

“The Last Mistress” opens today at the Tropic Cinema. The French title is actually “Une Vieille Maîtresse,” therefore some references call the movie by its more literal translation, “An Old Mistress.”

At the screening, both my women and gay friends were enthralled with the lead actor’s looks – although I found it a bit disconcerting that the actor was so much prettier than his co-star.
Newcomer Fu’ad Ait Aattou is cast as the handsome roué about to marry a chaste noblewoman after having squandered his fortunes on a fiery Spanish mistress. This mistress is intensely portrayed by Asia Argento (daughter of Italian horror director Dario Argento).

Based on Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly’s scandalous 19th-century novel, “The Last Mistress” is actually a story within a story. This notorious libertine confesses to his wife-to-be’s grandmother all the sordid details of his ten-year affair with his mistress. This, we are given to understand, is done to assure her that his wanton ways are behind him – but as he describes the tempestuous relationship with his mistress it becomes clear that he will never quite escape the power of her magnetic pull.

Falling for the Spanish-born wife of a local aristocrat upon first meeting, he pursues her until he’s shot in a duel by her jealous husband, and then finds the spitfire throwing herself at him.
French director Catherine Breillat is known for her distinctively personal films dealing with sexuality, gender trouble and sibling rivalry.

The Breillat touch is perhaps most visible in “The Last Mistress” in the graphic love-making scenes between libertine and mistress, typically featuring “much nudity and specificity of physical detail.”

Her film’s theme offers a familiar mantra. One of the characters puts it this way: “In love, the first to suffer has lost.”

As for her handsome young star, she found him sitting in a Parisian restaurant and invited him to audition for the lead in “The Last Mistress.” As she recalls the encounter, “I needed someone who represented an ideal of male beauty, someone who looked like a Renaissance painting. At the moment when I despaired of ever finding him, I saw a young man in a crowded cafe, and knew immediately that he was the one.”

Ait Aattou hopes that “The Last Mistress” will lead to other acting roles. But he worries that his modeling will be held against him, that he won’t be considered “a real actor” because of it.
Maybe, maybe not.

But I suspect there’s an audience out there who will attend his movies just to feast on his ethereal good looks.
[from Solares Hill]

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