Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Maiden and the Wolves (2008)

I'm still on something of a French film kick and although I can remember reading a review of this movie, it has not yet turned up on DVD nor does it seem to have been widely shown. Billed in my Satellite TV guide as a 'family-friendly' film, it is actually anything but with its brief nudity, threat of rape, focus on illegitimacy, and attempted murder, although the animal sequences are pretty special. On balance, I can't really see this as a suitable offering for youngsters.

Starring erstwhile model Laetitia Casta, who also played the prozzie in "Rue des plaisirs" mentioned below, it is filmed in the snowy French Alps near Mont Blanc and is set in the period before, during and just after World War I. Casta plays the daughter of a local farmer and the god-daughter of the local foundry owner, who has grown rich manufacturing munitions, and she dreams of training to be a veterinarian, an unheard of calling for a woman at the time. One of the sub-plots involves the attempted extermination of the local wolf packs before the war, their survival, and their eventual destruction afterwards. Another contrasts the animal-loving simplicity of a 'wild' man in the hills who is considered a few sandwiches short of a picnic by the locals and the greedy son of the rich man who wants to develop the area for tourism and who believes that Casta should be his by right. When she is "lost" after an airplane crash in the mountains and is rescued by the local 'idiot' and his wolves, the conflict comes to a head. There are some wonderful scenes of the latter as a child watching his gypsy mom (whose body he has preserved in an ice cave) literally dancing with a wolf as her stage act -- not quite what Kevin Costner was on about.

While Casta is no great actress, she proves more than adequate for her role here and the rest of the cast are fine. I would however take exception to her recent choice as the face of Marianne, the symbol of France. Catherine Deneuve she ain't!
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