I kept watching “The Last Mistress,” and I kept waiting for it to get better. And then I gave up. Yes it’s true; I’m reviewing a movie I didn’t manage to finish. You should be outraged.
It’s a period piece, set in early 18th century France. All the setpieces, costumes, and extras feel like they’re borrowed from the French version of “Masterpiece Theater.” The mise-en-scene never escapes that stuffy, styrofoam feeling of cheap European television.
It’s about a young aristocrat(Fu’ad Ait Attou) who’s been having an affair with a scandalous woman (Asia Argento) for ten years, but has now broken it off and is marrying a respectable, and wealthy girl (Roxanne Mesquida.) The girl’s grandmother is suspicious, and gets the whole story of the affair from him one night. They talk about love as if it were a disease; something you catch from one person, and it messes up your life, then goes away after a while, until you catch it from someone else. “How sad that we’re not in love any more!” he moans in his story.
And in the second act, the rich girl and romantic boy get married, and now we’re supposed to care about her, even though an hour has gone by and she’s hardly spoken a word. Argento shows back up, threatens to throw herself onto the rocks below if he doesn’t make love to her, and so he does. And she weeps, and she’s pregnant, and they’re stuck in love with someone they’d rather not be, and I really couldn’t care less.
Director Catherine Breillat has made a name for herself in recent years with movies that deal frankly with matters of sex, gender roles, and power. I haven’t seen any of her other movies, but I do hope they’re better than this one. “The Last Mistress” felt like the dramatization of a cheap and trashy romance novel. There are better ways to spend your time.