On Gabrielle (2006):
From France, this Patrice Chereau picture borrows Joseph Conrad’s fine 1897 story, “The Return,” for cinematic treatment. A wife, Gabrielle, leaves her home to run off with a recent lover, but abruptly changes her mind and returns to her husband. It does Jean the spouse no good at all. Self-confidence goes; the expected confusion and wrath arrive. The film has to do with desiccated lives and not merely a desiccated marriage. What happens when marriage is the only thing a person can fall back on? Nothing.
Isabelle Huppert plays Gabrielle in a performance perfect and great: the core of a person, of a broken aristocrat, is captured. Equally powerful, emotionally wrenching, is Pascal Greggory as Jean. The actors are superior to the director’s style, what with the occasional unnecessary music and the transitions from color to black-and-white. Even worse are the arty intertitles. But Gabrielle is no letdown, searing and meaningful as it is. Huppert and Greggory are not its only strengths.
(In French with English subtitles)