Last Summer (2023) Cannes Film Festival

May 25th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Wri/Dir: Catherine Breillat | Cast: Lea Drucker, Olivier Rabourdin, Clotilde Courau, Samuel Kircher | France Drama 104′

This French remake of May el-Touky’s far edgier awarding-winning original Queen of Hearts is so laboured, long-winded and last-century.  

Léa Drucker gives a steely performance as Anne a smug but successful juvenile rights lawyer who likes to live on the wild side and risks it all to have a casual affair with her mixed-up, ugly duckling stepson Theo (Kircher) because she can. In this sleek makeover where the focus is the upmarket Parisian suburban settings, Anne plays token mother to her adopted Japanese daughters, but most of the time she is flaunting her voluptuous figure in couture dresses, and stilettos, and is rarely without a glass of wine to get through her days of being a legal champion and massaging the ego of her rich and raddled industrialist husband Pierre (Rabourdin) who she can also alienate in a second with her razor-sharp rhetoric. 

But this sweet tale sour when Theo throws his toys out of the pram, confessing the liaison to  Pierre on a ‘man-to-man’ break. Anne strikes back with a vituperative counterclaim bringing her husband back onside and threatening Theo with her legal prowess. Breillat shocked audiences twenty years ago with her avantgarde approach to sex from the women’s point of view, most notably in Romance – but this material is so passe and lacks the bite of her early work, playing out like an bland erotic comedy with some skilful camerawork thrown in. It is also overlong.

El-Touky co-wrote the script but her original film Queen of Hearts – an apt title embodying the control freakery behind Anne’s character – also dived deeper into the psychological aspects of the story of an abusive narcissist with a heart of stone. Breillat’s film focusses on the intimate sexual relationship which provides awkward and ultimately tedious viewing, and is particularly unconvincing in its motivations as Theo is no adonis and lacks charisma. And who really wants to sit through endless close-up sweaty sequences of people having sex?  MT




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