Les Destinees | Chicago Reader

Les Destinees

Jacques Charonne's novel Les destinees sentimentales follows a Protestant minister turned factory owner over the first three decades of the 20th century, and one suspects that director Olivier Assayas was attracted to the material partly as a way of exploring his own Protestant roots. The hero (Charles Berling), doubting the fidelity of his wife (Isabelle Huppert), asks her to leave their home in the Charente region of France, and she takes their daughter with her. Years later he decides he was wrong, gives his wife the fortune from his family's porcelain factory, leaves the ministry, and marries a friend's niece (Emmanuelle Beart); his life takes another unexpected turn after his uncle dies and he's asked to take over the factory. Assayas is masterful in using offscreen sounds to conjure up a novelistic sense of milieu and in handling various ceremonies, and the film's lush texture explains why he called it his anti-Dogma film. Even at 173 minutes, this 2000 release is surprisingly brisk for a period picture. In French with subtitles.

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