Dec 11, 2008

Why haven't you seen... The Page Turner

Dir: Denis Dercourt
What’s It All About?

As a 10-year-old Melanie fails a piano exam, put off when Ariane (Catherine Frot), one of her examiners, signs an autograph when she is supposed to be listening. 8 or 10 years later Melanie (Deborah Francois) finds herself (by coincidence?) as an au pair, working for that same examiner, and extacts her revenge.

Why Haven’t You Seen It?
Probably because French films, particularly slow paced revenge movies with no violence, don’t tend to get wide releases in either the States or the UK. Along with a small release goes a small advertising campaign, which means you may not even have heard of the film.

Why Should You See It?
The French have always been great admirers of Hitchcock, with such directors as Cluzot and Chabrol paying him explicit homage. Denis Dercourt can be added to that list, thanks to the slow burning thrills of The Page Turner, which uses Hitchcock’s rule about letting the audience know more than the characters to induce suspense brilliantly. This is a vengeance movie that breaks the mould. It’s not a visceral film, indeed it contains just one brief act of violence, and even at just 80 minutes it doesn’t move especially fast.

Where The Page Turner excels is in getting under your skin, and keeping you on the edge of your seat, wondering what Melanie’s ultimate revenge will be. To this end Dercourt is immeasurably aided by 19-year-old Deborah Francois, whose icy cool performance as Melanie hints at a dangerous personality, yet artfully conceals it. With her clear blue eyes, long blonde hair and cut glass beauty Francois is a Hitchcock heroine born out of her time, and Dercourt exploits this to strong effect.

The Page Turner isn’t just the Deborah Francois’ show though. Catherine Frot is equally impressive as Ariane, and the way the relationship between the characters develops feels entirely honest because of her performance, while Pascal Greggory, though sidelined for much of the film, also gives a detailed and layered performance in his few scenes as Frot’s husband.

Dercourt is a musician, and he paces his film like one of the many pieces of classical music in it, building slowly to a crescendo, and coming to a false climax more than once before the final act reveals itself. Dercourt conducts the film beautifully, ensuring that you won’t get to the ending ahead of time.

The Page Turner’s greatest strengths lie in what it conceals. You never really know how much of Melanie’s vengeance is planned, nor if Ariane ever figures out who she is, and those and other questions will niggle at you long after this fine and unsettling film ends.

How Can You See It?
The UK dvd is pretty cheap now, it's in the correct ratio and has decent subtitles. Extras include a good interview with Dercourt and Francois and a featurette. The featurette is also on the US disc, sadly it doesn't have the interviews but the discs are otherwise identical.

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