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Saturday, June 20, 2009

CHERI

By D.E>Levine

Director: Stephen Frears
Producers: Bill Kenwright, Andras Hamori, Tracey Seaward and Thom Mount
Executive Producers: Jessica Lange, Francois Ivernet, Cameron McCracken, Christopher Hampton, Richard Temple and Simon Fawcett
Co-Producers: Raphael Benoliel, Bastian Griese and Raif Schmitz
Associate Producer: Marco Giles and Daniel Mann
Screenplay: Christopher Hampton
Novel: Colette
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, Rupert Friend, Felicity Jones, Frances Tomelty, Anita Pallenberg, Harriet Walter, Iben Hjejle, Bette Bourne, Gaye Brown, Tom Burke, et al.
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Costumes: Consolata Boyle
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Country of Origin: UK, France and Germany
Language: English, French and German
Genre: Romance

Nominated for the 2009 Golden Berlin Bear, this French period piece (1906 Paris) is a story originally told by Colette about the demi-monde where prostitutes are celebrated for their beauty and their abilities.

Lea de Lonval is a breathtaking beautiful seductress of "a certain age" who is seeing her career as a courtesan/prostitute come to an end in belle epoque Paris.

Invited for lunch by a rival and colleague Mme. Peloux, they discuss the future of Madame's son Fred, nicknamed Cheri, who appears to do nothing but party.

Long an admirer of Lea, Cheri flirts with her, demands a kiss and is stunned by the passion they each find.

Running off to have a fling together, the fling stretches to six years. When Mme. Peloux announces over another lunch that she's arranged a marriage for Cheri with Edme, the daughter of another courtesan, both Cheri and Lea are stunned.

Cheri goes through with the marriage while Lea goes to Biaritz with her maid but pretends she has a new lover.

Both Cheri and Lea fail to realize that they've experienced true love during their six years together. Since they view love as a commodity, they have no reference against which to measure it.

The venues are breathtaking and the costumes are positively glorious period pieces from the Belle Epoque.

The passion between Cheri and Lea doesn't come across as a palpable hunger. While it's possible to believe the love between a younger man and older woman, something is lacking from this melodramatic romance, perhaps because of the emptiness of Cheri as a human being. There's no character development. Cheri seems like a spoiled brat and exhibits no depth of feeling. Lea too, as a professional prostitute seems without true feeling.

An expensive film with gorgeous cinematography and a stellar cast, the film is appealing but whether it will draw a large following remains to be seen.