Catherine Breillat's "The Last Mistress" (or "Une vieille maîtresse") is a 2007 French drama that is a bold exploration of desire, passion, and social constraints. The film presents a period piece that is not confined by its era but rather uses the historical backdrop to delve into universal themes of love and lust.
Set in 19th-century France, the plot revolves around the tempestuous affair between Ryno de Marigny, played by Fu'ad Aït Aattou, and his Spanish mistress, Vellini, portrayed by Asia Argento. As Ryno is about to marry the innocent Hermangarde, played by Roxane Mesquida, he must confront his scandalous past with Vellini.
Breillat, known for her provocative and unflinching depiction of sexuality, crafts a narrative that's raw and visceral. The love affair between Ryno and Vellini is not romanticized but portrayed as a turbulent and consuming passion that challenges societal norms.
The performances are another highlight of the film. Aït Aattou brings a sense of vulnerability to Ryno, while Argento's Vellini is fiery and audacious. The tension between them is palpable and forms the crux of the story.
The cinematography is evocative, effectively capturing the opulence and decadence of the era. However, the film's strength lies in its script and character development. It offers an exploration of human desires and the complexity of relationships that is both nuanced and thought-provoking.
However, the film's explicit content and pace might not be for everyone. Its explorations of desire and sexuality can be seen as graphic, and the narrative unfolds slowly, focusing more on character development than on plot twists.
In conclusion, "The Last Mistress" is a bold and challenging film that uses its period setting to delve into timeless themes. It may not appeal to everyone, but for viewers open to a non-traditional, thought-provoking exploration of love and lust, it's a must-see.