Like some of her most memorable films, including 36 Fillets, Romance, Sex is comedy And Hell Anatomynew work by French writer and director Catherine Breillat, Last summer (L’Eté dernier), straddles the dangerous line between scary drama, dark comedy, and erotic exploitation — that’s exactly where the director wants to be.
On the surface, the plot seems to be rooted in a lighthearted stepmother drama, following a successful lawyer, Anne (Léa Drucker), who has an illicit affair with her stepchild, Théo (Samuel). Kircher), a rebellious 17-year-old. looks like a replacement cam for Timothée Chalamet. But while the film may at first glance follow that mold, including a handful of fairly direct sex scenes, Breillat is after something more than mere Skinemax fodder, visiting probes the depths of the desires of a bourgeois class forced to live the dull, cold, and manipulative life that can happen between two lovers with a considerable age gap.
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Debut in competition at Cannes, Last summer feels like a savoury French cousin to Todd Haynes’ May december, which was played earlier in the festival and chronicles the long and controversial relationship between a teenage boy and a woman twice his age. But while Haynes was interested in how such a love story could shock the American mind and sustain it over time, Breillat’s more destructive instincts searched for how it might end. disrupt the comfortable life – less because of the big age difference than because of social conventions. which is both restrictive and mandatory.
The story that Breillat adapted from the Danish film in 2019 Queen of hearts. In the film’s opening scene, she tells a young female client, who has hired her in a rape case, that “victims sometimes become defendants” — and most of the time. Last summer talks about how that applies first to Anne, then to the teenager Théo, who moves into the spacious country house where Anne lives with the young man’s father, Pierre (Olivier Rabourdin).
A tall bad boy who smokes is repeatedly arrested for punching a kindergarten teacher in Switzerland, where he lives with his mother, Théo roams around the house topless and manipulative. as many bitch faces as possible. However, he’s a rather funny brother to Pierre and Anne’s two absolutely adorable adopted daughters, Serena (Serena Hu) and Angela (Angela Hu), but seems to harbor a grudge really for his father, a quiet businessman with constant financial worries.
Thus, the setting was ripe for Théo to seduce Anne to annoy Pierre, or just because he was bored, and it didn’t take long for the stepchildren and stepmother to start frolicking around the countryside and eventually between the bed sheets. There are three lengthy sex scenes in the film, each shot in close-up — unlike many Breillat films, there’s hardly any nudity here — and each shows an accomplished character. pleasure at the expense of another character. First, it’s Pierre on Anne in a scene devoid of any passion. In the second scene, Théo has a distinct orgasm the first time he sleeps with his stepmother. In season three, Anne is finally due.
In Breillat’s twisted world, lust is not something shared with each other but something stolen from others or forced upon them, often when they are most vulnerable. (The title of the director’s highly autobiographical final film is Abuse of weakness.) At first, it seems Théo is taking advantage of Anne’s stalled love life through his killer looks and sinister charms. But like Last summer progressed, the situation was reversed and Anne had a clear upper hand, using her legitimate ruse to corner Théo.
A regular Hollywood movie turns the third act into one Deadly charm-thriller genre, and although Breillat sometimes leans in that direction, introducing tapes and lawsuits, she’s too transgressive to go in that direction. By taking charge of her own sexuality, Anne risks harming both Théo and increasingly vulnerable Pierre, and we’re starting to wonder if she cares if she does. so no. It’s an all-or-nothing approach that Drucker fully convinces (care), who deserves more lead roles like this, portrays a case of a cruel stepmother less than a woman’s quest for freedom.
Some viewers will balk at the fact that Anne finally wants to have her own son’s toy and eat him, but Last summer is a film that defies moral boundaries and narrative conventions. With her rude demeanor — the soundtrack features an original Sonic Youth song — Breillat once again takes us to the limit of what’s acceptable, asking us to wonder if we should. are there any limits.