A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that teens probably won't be clamoring to see this this mature, subtitled drama. It's plenty lusty (including fairly graphic sex scenes with partial and near-full nudity) and doesn't shy away from examining what lies behind obsessive sexual attraction. Married men and women engage in illicit trysts, and some relationships are painted coldly, with sex as the fuel rather than love. And even when it is love that inspires affection, it doesn't seem to be able to triumph over lust. There's also some drinking and smoking and fairly minor violence.
What's the story?
THE LAST MISTRESS opens with aristocrats indulging in what one of them describes as the "only sin" left: gluttony. But really, it isn't, as this lusty French-language feature (with English subtitles) set in the 19th century soon proves. Ryno de Marigny (Fu'ad Ait Aattou) is in love with the virginal Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida), and despite high society's doubts, her grandmother gives her blessing for them to marry. Never mind that for 10 years, Ryno has been conducting a torrid affair with a Spanish courtesan named Vellini (Asia Argento). After nearly dying in a duel with Vellini's husband, Ryno wins her (she even licks his bloody wounds). But happily ever after isn't in their cards, and Vellini can't let go, even when Ryno marries.
Is it any good?
Director Catherine Breillat's film is beautiful to behold, but the story is far from lovely. Here, love -- or is it lust? -- is bared in all its ugly complexities. It's fascinating material, and for a time, it holds -- no, demands -- viewers' attention. But in the end, it's aridly told, despite all the bare breasts and behinds and languorous sex scenes. Instead of seeing Ryno and Vellini's obsession build and unfold, the film revisits their relationship in flashbacks that go on for much too long. The back-and-forth strips the film of any sense of urgency or passion.
That said, Argento gooses the film; she's as bold as bold can be and perfect for her role. But everyone else pales in comparison, though the gossips who trail her and Ryno's journey are a guilty pleasure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the movie is saying about love and sex. Do the two always go hand in hand? Parents, if you watch with your teens, use this as an opportunity to talk to them about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Why do you think Ryno and Vellini can't seem to stay away from each other -- even though they don't appear to make each other happy? Should relationships really be conducted with strategy in mind?
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