French film review: indulge in the enchanted world of Gemma Bovery
As the opening night film for the Alliance Française French Film Festival’s 2015 season, ‘Gemma Bovery’, adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, recounts the enchanting story of Gustave Flaubert’s 19th century classic ‘Madame Bovary’, with a modern twist.
Martin Joubert, the town’s boulanger and ‘Madame Bovary’ fanatic, is ecstatic when he discovers an English couple named Gemma and Charles Bovery have moved in next door to his home in Normandy, at the very location in which his favourite novel was written. He watches on as their lives parallel the tale he knows by heart, seemingly unfolding even in the most unfavourable circumstances, and in which Joubert feels the need to intervene to stop fiction from turning to fate.
Fabrice Luchini is Joubert, instantly distracted from the tediousness of his daily grind by the mesmerising Gemma. We are happily dragged along by his fascination, as he playfully narrates the film from a bewildered and witty viewpoint.
Visually delicious France
Learning French for the role, Gemma Arterton plays the woman in question, who continuously surprises us with her audaciousness, her thirst to live a full life and her refusal to be reduced to her physical merits.
We are both charmed and irritated by the untamable Gemma, and through Martin’s quips – half uttered to himself, half to an attentive audience – we are strung along for the ride.
Skilfully executed by Anne Fontaine (‘Coco avant Chanel’, 2009), ‘Gemma Bovery’ is a delight for all the senses. We delight in the picturesque countryside, inhale the bouquets plucked from fields, and can almost taste the viennoiseries in Joubert’s shop.
Of course, there are carefully placed comtemporary references woven throughout the film, permeating today’s world with that of Flaubert’s. Traces of new-age adaptations added to the old world literary romanticism keep the film eternally relevant for all tastes. A flash of an iPhone mashes with 17th century architecture just as Joubert’s son hilariously keeps him grounded to the modern world of video games and electronics.
Isabelle Candelier is hilarious with her brief but raucous jabs at her husband over his fascination with Gemma. Meanwhile, Jason Flemyng plays Charlie Bovery, the somewhat oblivious yet likeable husband for whom we can’t help but feel a soft spot. And, of course, the very interesting franglais exchanges bemuse us throughout the film.
As Fontaine told Allociné, “c’est une comédie … vraiment très amusante entre Anglais et Français” (“it’s a really entertaining comedy that shifts between English and French”). Watch the bande annonce yourself:
Don’t miss ‘Gemma Bovery’ (MA5+) as it returns to Australian cinemas for general release on May 28th. For more information and to book tickets online, visit Palace Cinemas.
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Images via the Gemma Bovery Film Facebook page.