Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cheri, movie review

Posted by lea at 12:10 PM
Cheri is a story set in the belle epoch – a period of history in France when high class whores were some of the most celebrated and powerful figures in society. Leah (portrayed beautifully by the gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer) is an ageing courtesan who begins a sexual affair with her friend's 19 year old son, Cheri (played by Rupert Friend). After so many decades and so many lovers, Leah finds herself truly in love for the first time, only to be informed that his mother has arranged a suitable marriage for him.

Actually, 'suitable' is a difficult word to use regarding this movie because so much of it is so very unsuitable. Not only does Leah begin a sexual relationship with a boy she's known since he was a baby (whom she even nicknamed Cheri at the age of six), but it's clear that she has maternal feelings toward him, and he filial feelings toward her. The fact that they don't hesitate to give in to their desire for each other, purely because they can, reflects the indifference of their culture to any sense of right and wrong. So many boundaries are crossed that it's no wonder their unhealthy obsession with each other leads to tragedy.

As an aside, having heard that the author of the novel this movie was based on was a woman who had had an affair with her stepson, I couldn't help but think this story was a little self-serving – trying to bring sympathy to the mother figure in this Oedipal story to justify her own actions.

But enough of my moralising – back to the review. The packaging (cinematography, score and costuming) was beautiful and Michelle Pfeiffer did a great job as Leah. It was also a better movie for showing no gratuitious nudity (except a few shots of Rupert Friend's rather taut butt), b/c it focused the storyline on the relational aspect rather than the sex, and added a measure of elegance to an otherwise tawdry affair.

Stephen Frear's voice overs were a bit jarring because the narrator had no relevance to the story, however the narration itself provided interesting insights into the characters. I'm still undecided about whether it was necessary.

On the whole, Cheri is a romantic tragedy (rom-trag – is this another genre?) that's not so much Romeo and Juliet as it is Mrs Robinson.

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