Films | Bel Ami – Movie Review

Bel Ami – Movie Review

Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on August 31, 2012 | No Comments

PRODUCER – Uberto Pasolini
DIRECTOR – Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod
WRITER – Rachel Bennette (Based on the book ‘Bel Ami’ by Guy de Maupassant
CAST – Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci
MUSIC – Lakshman Joseph De Saram, Rachel Portman

In Bel Ami, Robert Pattinson, the Twilight heart-throb, plays Georges Duroy, a down-on-luck chap who finds he may just have one talent to gain upward mobility-his charm with women. He comes to Paris’ elite society from dingy garrets through an old army friend Forestier (Philip Glenister) and quickly latches onto his wife Madeliene (Uma Thurman). A stint at their political newspaper and an affair with Madeliene later, comes in Clotilde (Christina Ricci), and then Virginie (Kristin Scott Thomas). All women fall helplessly for his charms and Georges uses that to his advantage to advance his social status and career.

Adultery and debauchery set against an elitist background is a tried and tested theme, yet it can never exhaust of layers to peel. Despite that, Bel Ami chooses to stay merely close to the surface, exploring romance of the forbidden type and ambition fuelled by lascivious greed with a touch of frivolity even. And then it has a limited actor in the centre, saddled with a rather uni-dimensional character graph and surrounded by far more talented women.

The film is set in the 1890’s Paris, the Golden Age or Belle Epoque as it is fondly called, and needless to say gets a lot of opportunities to flaunt the trappings of silk and velvet. It evokes the era with a charm that is more costume-drama rather than a dedicated fashionable old-world. The lives of the people in this world remain as superficial, their traumas and angst reduced to almost referential and text-book emotions. Amongst the rather hollow proceedings the film also doesn’t allow for much portrayal of Georges’ inner life, his demons or frustrations. He is completely amoral and morality is not a point the film beats up either, but a man consumed by lust, both physical and financial most likely would have identifiable soul churnings. After all, Dorian Gray did too.

Adapted from Guy De Maupassant’s novel of the same name, and directed by theatre directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod handling cinema for the first-time here, Bel Ami has a lot of gloss and little soul. It also has little drama given its sufficiently risqué theme blending ambition and seduction. Yet, the very layers that flesh out stories of cardinal sins remain noticeable by its absence. Not having read Maupassant’s book version it is difficult to say if it was originally meant to be so, however, in the present form, the film comes across as a dull and staid show full of beautiful and charming women with a presence and a good-looking man. Nothing more, nothing less.

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