Saturday, April 2, 2011

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Queen to Play French Drama movie 2011

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Cast And Crew
Starring: Sandrine Bonnaire
Kevin Kline,Valérie Lagrange
Francis Renaud, Alexandra Gentil
Director:Caroline Bottaro
Writers:Caroline Bottaro,
Bertina Henrichs
Studio:Zeitgeist Films
Runtime:1 hour 36 minutes
Release Date: April 1st, 2011
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Official Sites: Studio Canal [France]
Country: France | Germany
Language: French | English
Also Known As: Joueuse
Filming Locations: Corsica, France

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Movie Plot Summary:
Sandrine Bonnaire and Kevin Kline (in his first French-speaking role) shine in this sophisticated feel-good comedy set in idyllic Corsica. Middle-aged chambermaid Hélène's newfound obsession with the game of chess leads her to seek the tutelage of a reclusive American expat, transforming both of their ho-hum lives in the process.

More Info »
Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) and the luminous Sandrine Bonnaire (Vagabond) square off in this stylish and sophisticated dramedy of newfound passions and mid-life triumphs, set on the postcard-perfect isle of Corsica. Lovely, repressed and quietly intelligent, French chambermaid Helene (Bonnaire) discovers she has a knack for chess. This obsession--much to the chagrin of her husband and teenaged daughter--leads her to seek the clandestine tutelage of a reclusive American doctor (Kline, in his first French-speaking role)--a liaison that radically transforms both of their lackluster lives. Based on Bertina Henrichs' acclaimed novel La Joueuse d'echec (The Chess Player), Queen to Play is the feature film debut of French director and screenwriter Caroline Bottaro.,

Movie Review:
Reviewed by Jules Brenner on Mar 31 2011
Adapted from a German novel written by a German in French and featuring an American star to elevate its distribution and commercial prospects, this fanciful arthouse Cinderella story with a pushy contemporary message and a cerebral context has jumped the Atlantic and makes its ambitious way to our theatres and home viewing.

Hélène (Sandrine Bonnaire, Intimate Strangers), a plain looking housewife, is comfortably committed to the mundane job of chambermaid in a posh hotel on the island of Corsica, and private cleaning lady for special clients. We see her bicycling to work, agreeable to a demanding female boss, and cleaning the room of a handsome American couple (Jennifer Beals and Dominic Gould in cameos) while they remain out of the way, on the balcony, playing chess.

But this is no ordinary moment. Suddenly, through the eyes of a person we are given to believe is an unworldly cleaning lady, a game that appeals to the analytic and the fiercely competitive takes on a hue of romance and deep fascination. As we suspected from the first frames of the movie, the simple chambermaid without the courage or ambition to tax her mental capacity reveals a glimpse of the intellect buried in her comfort zone of menial occupation. The moment of discovery is electric... life-changing. She's enthralled by the glamor of the couple she espies through the gently billowing curtain, intrigued and fascinated even more by the female conquest of the male when the lady declares "checkmate."

Thus co-writer/director Caroline Bottaro draws the framework for a transition from diffidence to the kind of empowerment feminists extol and fly their flags for. We smell a message coming on. But, the obviousness of it is, thankfully, obscured by the direction the story takes and by the pleasure we take in the acting by an unusual pairing: French Bonnaire and French-speaking American, Kevin Kline (Definitely, Maybe).

Kline fits into the scenario as Dr. Kroger, an ailing, melancholy recluse who has hermetically sealed himself off in his remote mansion following his wife's suicide. Distrusted by the community, he has no social contact, save for the regular presence of his cleaning lady--none other than the plain Hélène making extra bucks to compensate for a shortfall in hubby Ange's (Francis Renaud) modest construction income. Despite the pressure of reduced circumstances, however, when Hélène discovers a very nice chess set in Kroger's library, she's not above trading her cleaning hours for lessons.

Back at home, Ange is mostly uptight and unresponsive to his wife and daughter Maria's (Valerie Lagrange) personal needs, setting up the possibility that the intellectually aroused wife's interest in her client may be about more than learning the game of chess. This suggestion is thrown an amusing curve when Hélène throws Ange a birthday party and presents him with a gift that we might have thought would be unaffordable under their reduced circumstances: an electronic chess set (on which she spends nightly hours, learning the game).

The idea that chess might be something she could be good at comes from nowhere, but it's inexplicably shared by Kroger almost immediately. At first we think it's because he likes her company, but he soon turns from the slightly crotchety boss to an eager and engaged teacher and mentor. And, to cut to the chase, it doesn't take much time for her to acquire the skill to better him at the game. Turns out she has all the mental potentials that he and she thought she had. The modest French housewife has become capable of crippling male vanity and breaching their dominance in the game! Male grandmasters, beware! You are about to lose your edge as well as your standing.

But, while becoming the master player, and sacrificing her sleep, her health and her maternal and vocational duties while somehow affording a better wardrobe and glamming herself up with a fetching hairdo on the way to her first competition, she has much to compensate for when she comes back to earth and realizes she has amends and apologies to make for the months when everything but her game were unwelcome diversions. How to balance; how to balance?

Bonnaire is a beautiful woman with the kind of looks that can be downplayed to fit into the requirements of something like this. She is less adept at hiding her bright, aware mentality as she's called upon to do in the early part of the film. But, any way you cook it, the premise is a pretense, and the meal being offered is blatant and mushy.

The draw here as far as payback for the producers and distributors--let's face it--is Kline, speaking French for the first time before the cameras, and fitting into the European style of contained storytelling without heroics or undue emphasis quite effectively. His portrayal is studiously intelligent if intentionally subdued. The fires that burn in his character are internal ones--to which we don't gain much access. But, one suspects this actor's foray abroad is one to be proud of--a feather in his career cap. For his followers, this film, for all its feminist emphasis, would be a must-see.

The arcane details of the game are also studiously avoided and viewers who develop a desire to follow in Hélène's footsteps might be warned against expecting too much. Perhaps the best part of Bottaro's fantasy for adults is the notion that chess can be sexy and a basis for a woman's reinvention which, when you think about it, is slightly preposterous. Hers is a Cinderella story variant with a game of chess doubling for the magic slipper--a metaphorical diversion with the wish fulfillment of a warm marshmallow.

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