"La femme publique" (1984), or "The Public Woman," is a French drama film directed by Andrzej Żuławski. It stars Valérie Kaprisky as Ethel, an aspiring young actress who gets caught in a complex and destructive relationship with a film director, played by Francis Huster, and becomes entangled in political intrigue involving a mysterious Eastern European dissident.
Plot and Themes: The story revolves around Ethel, who auditions for the lead role in a film adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's "The Possessed." The director, Lucas Kesling, becomes infatuated with her and casts her in the role. As they work together, their relationship becomes increasingly obsessive and chaotic, mirroring the intense and controversial themes of the film they are making.
The narrative intertwines Ethel's personal journey with political subtext, as the film within the film relates to a struggle for freedom in Eastern Europe. Ethel becomes involved with Milan, an exiled dissident, adding another layer of complexity to her relationships and her understanding of herself.
Acting: Valérie Kaprisky gives a brave and vulnerable performance as Ethel, portraying her transformation from naive and inexperienced to self-aware and damaged. Francis Huster's portrayal of Kesling is intense and manipulative, reflecting the character's obsession with control and artistic vision.
Cinematography and Direction: Żuławski's direction is bold and unconventional, utilizing frenetic camera movement and dramatic staging to convey the emotional turmoil of the characters. The film is visually striking, with stark contrasts and vivid imagery that complement the story's themes of passion, madness, and rebellion.
Music: The score by Alain Wisniak adds to the film's atmosphere, reflecting the chaos and intensity of the characters' experiences.
Criticism: "La femme publique" is not a film for everyone. Its explicit content, intense emotions, and complex narrative structure may be off-putting to some viewers. Additionally, some may find the film's portrayal of relationships and female sexuality problematic or controversial.
"La femme publique" is a challenging and provocative film that explores the intersection of art, politics, and personal identity. Its intense performances, bold direction, and complex themes make it a unique and memorable cinematic experience. However, its explicit content and unconventional approach may make it a difficult watch for some audiences.