In 1950s France, Gabrielle is a passionate, free-spirited woman who is in a loveless marriage and falls for another man when she is sent away to the Alps to treat her kidney stones. Gabrielle yearns to free herself and run away with André.
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Loïe Fuller was the toast of the Folies Bergères at the turn of the 20th century and an inspiration for Toulouse-Lautrec and the Lumière Brothers. The film revolves around her complicated relationship with protégé and rival Isadora Duncan.
A single devastating event intertwines inextricably the lives of an unfortunate teenager, a weary woman with a critical degenerative heart condition and a team of compassionate doctors; all perfect strangers, perfectly interconnected.
Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard) comes from a small village in the South of France, at a time when her dream of true love is considered scandalous, and even a sign of insanity. Her parents marry her to José (Alex Brendemühl), an honest and loving Spanish farm worker who they think will make a respectable woman of her. Despite José's devotion to her, Gabrielle vows that she will never love José and lives like a prisoner bound by the constraints of conventional post-World War II society until the day she is sent away to a cure in the Alps to heal her kidney stones. There she meets André Sauvage (Louis Garrel), a dashing injured veteran of the Indochinese War, who rekindles the passion buried inside her. She promises they will run away together, and André seems to share her desire. Will anyone dare rob her of her right to follow her dreams? Written by
Gabrielle, a stunning embodiment of 1950s Provence hysteria in full HD, yearns, craves and longs. Her oozing desire is disruptive to those around her and excruciatingly painful for her to bear, pushing her into silently abundant jouissance beyond words, which passes through her body in cramps of both pain and pleasure.
Bearing such free-floating desire in turn makes Gabrielle barren - her wandering womb (the ancient Greek explanation for hysteria) refuses to stay attached to one place and nurture a fetus, conceived in what Gabrielle perceives a loveless marriage with Jose.
Diagnosed with kidney stones as the scientific explanation for her ailments, Gabrielle is subsequently sent off to a mountain resort, one with uncanny ability to dive into the hemispheres of the unconscious mind, strangely resembling Mann's Magic Mountain, thus allowing Gabrielle to spill her desire over reality itself, over time and memory as she meets a charming young man, physically and emotionally absent enough for her to project her longing onto him, for him to play a phantasmatic figure in her own monodrama of Wuthering Heights. She can finally live her jouissance fully and completely by bringing her unconscious phantasies to life as the object of these phantasies, on the other hand, slips into death. The love scene portraying the perfect union comes to stand for a breathtaking example of how the mechanisms of trauma, repression and narcissistic loss (melancholia) work. The trauma of loss (not of the man Gabrielle thought she had loved, but of her own narcissistic self in and with his death) becomes repressed and another scene happens in Gabrielle's mind instead, which secures linearity of Gabrielle's historic self. She can only come to decipher this event years later via the narrative of the silent Jose, whose silences had been nurturing silent gaps in Gabrielle's memory until she was finally ready to bear them. Until she was finally ready for a dialogue. Until she was finally ready to hear Jose speak his story.
This film is a remarkable narrative of a ruthless abundance of feminine desire that longs for a language to speak itself, and take ownership of the ambivalent continuity of self, which is all but linear. Cotillard is exquisite in this role, and so is the cinematographic gaze following movements of her wandering/wuthering womb.
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