Cover of "Madame Bovary"

Cover of Madame Bovary

Isabelle Huppert is extraordinary as Emma Bovary in Claude Chabrol‘s Madame Bovary, a long 1991 effort.  The formal achievement of Flaubert’s classic novel means that MB cannot really be filmed, but, besides the acting, what shines here is the directorial talent.  Chabrol is after authenticity—in character, in locations, in boredom, in anguish—and gets it.  He emphasizes only that which should be emphasized, and with a style never arty but always flavorous and even brave.  Check out the dancing at the ball, the doctor’s “bleeding” of a patient, the scenes of an Emma buried under debt.  No, we do not see Flaubert, but Chabrol and Huppert; and it’s fascinating.

Huppert has truly gone from strength to strength.  In the 1970s film The Lacemaker, she was quietly appealing; in Madame Bovary she is commandingly nuanced and gripping.

(In French with English subtitles)