La puritaine | Chicago Reader

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Conceptually one of the most interesting of Jacques Doillon's features, this 1986 film is set almost entirely inside a theater. While awaiting the return of his estranged daughter Manon (Sandrine Bonnaire), a stage director (Michel Piccoli) asks his young mistress (Sabine Azema) to act out various versions of the anticipated reunion, then summons several young actresses to embody different aspects or portions of Manon—her eyes, voice, hands, ears, and so on. Manon herself makes an appearance during these improvisations, yet the theatrical games continue, until a heated confrontation between father and daughter finally takes place. While “the puritan” of the title is supposed to be Manon, whose estrangement from her father is related to her puritanism, the Bergman-esque guilt and sexual angst that seem so much a part of Doillon's world appear to rebound on the filmmaker as well. Using theater as an indirect metaphor for his own activity as a director, Doillon is well served by William Lubtchansky's camera work and the powerful talents of his three leads; even though the plot seems at times strangely external to his main concerns, the mise en scene and psychodrama that he enacts carry considerable dramatic voltage.

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