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The Duchess of Langeais(Ne touchez pas la hache)

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France, Italy · 2007
2h 17m
Director Jacques Rivette
Starring Jeanne Balibar, Guillaume Depardieu, Bulle Ogier, Michel Piccoli
Genre Drama, Romance

A former French general under Napoleon searches for a past lover for 5 years, eventually finding her in a convent in Majorca, where she is hiding as a nun. Their stormy relationship is shown in flashback, a dangerous game of seduction where the woman continually teases the man and delights in her power over him, reciprocated with his frustrated possessiveness.

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Village Voice by

Rivette is teasing his way, thinking afresh, playing a game but tweaking its rules, telling a story, but only sort of--making, in short, not simply a movie, but that ineffable magic called cinema.


Premiere by Glenn Kenny

The first masterpiece of 2008 -- at least by American release date standards -- the latest film from master French director Jacques Rivette is a masterful, multilayered, sometimes enigmatic work of dark irony, an assured tragicomedy of manners and more.


New York Post by Kyle Smith

Jacques Rivette's film is full of painstaking historical detail, but the behavior of the two nonlovers is mired in inaction and emotionally incomprehensible.


The A.V. Club by Noel Murray

Though not exactly a "comedy" of manners, since it's more melancholy than funny, The Duchess Of Langeais is very much concerned with how the rules of social etiquette interfere with raw human need.