Monday, October 17, 2011

Nap Time: 'The Sleeping Beauty'

Catherine Breillat is one of France's leading filmmakers with a sterling art house reputation in America, where several of her films have enjoyed healthy box office returns. I've only recently discovered three of her very entertaining works - "Sex is Comedy", "The Last Mistress", and "Bluebeard".

All of them I highly recommended to friends, because each had a smart and engaging narrative, feminist questions and concerns were raised in natural ways, and I cared what happened to the central characters, be they sympathetic or unpleasant.

Breillat's latest film is "The Sleeping Beauty" and except for a short nap during the first half, I saw most of at the San Francisco International Film Festival's screening with a full house. Unlike her previous works, "The Sleeping Beauty" had little to hold my attention. It felt longer than its 80-minute running time.

The movie is about a princess, who at birth has competing spells cast upon her by an older witch and three younger ones, spells that lead to wildly divergent fantasies during her slumbering. When she awakens in the world of today, the princess is ill-equipped to consummate the sexual interests of handsome young man.

I was left cold by it all, even the elegant visual style failed to overcome the plot's shortcomings, and confused about the great leap in time toward the end, a sentiment shared by two female cineaste acquaintances at the film festival screening. They are also fans of Breillat's other films, and were disappointed with "The Sleeping Beauty".

Still, I'm glad to have seen it because Breillat, even when her work doesn't engage me, is an important director to watch. If you've liked her previous films, or have an interest in the Sleeping Beauty myth and revisionist feminist examination of it, check out the new film.

"The Sleeping Beauty" plays at the SF Film Festival | New People Cinema on Post Street through October 21. Click here for screening times and ticket information. You can watch the trailer below:

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