Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, and Jacques Rivette (writers), Jacques Rivette (director) Ne touchez pas la hache (The Duchess of Langeais) / 2007; USA release 2008
Antoinette, Duchess of Langeais (Jeanne Balibar), a woman known throughout Paris as a beauty and wit, is clearly bored by her husband—who is absent throughout this film. At one of the innumerable parties she attends, this at the mansion of her friend Clara de Sérizy (Anne Cantineau), she is introduced to the famed Napoleonic hero, Armand de Montriveau (Guillaume Depardieu), and like any beauty of the day, she quickly circles in to dazzle and captivate him. By evening’s end he is anticipating a visit to her home the next day with intent of making her his mistress.
While neither the original novella nor the film make it clear, we can only suspect that his earlier conversation with her at the Convent in the presence of the Abbess contributed to her death. In punishment for her lies, was she starved, tortured by the nuns themselves?
Los Angeles, November 12, 2007
Reprinted from Nth Position [England], (February 2008).