The Page Turner (LA TOURNEUSE DES PAGES).

Starring Catherine Frot and Deborah Francois. Directed by Denis Dercourt.
Running Time: 81 minutes.
Rated: Rated PG.

This brief and atmospheric drama reminds us how much can be packed into 85 minutes by a skilled director. Denis Dercourt is not only a film-maker but has been a viola soloist with the French Symphony Orchestra (1988-1993) and teaches viola and chamber music at the Strasbourg Region National Conservatory. He brings his musical, writing and directing talents together most effectively in this story of music and obsession.

The film initially focuses on 12 year old Melanie, daughter of butchers, their pride and joy, especially in her talent at the piano. When she goes for her exam, something seemingly petty happens - but it changes her life and the life of the president of the judges. Melanie deliberately gives up the piano and broods.

When she gains an internship with a reputable lawyer, she has the opportunity to act as a companion for his wife and son. The wife is a famous pianist, recovering from a car accident and trying to regain her courage. Sweetly and quietly, Melanie becomes not only part of the household, she forms a bond with the son and becomes the wife's page-turner. Not exactly the stuff of action drama! Nevertheless, given the psychological background to Melanie's ingratiating herself with the family, it becomes quite a gripping study in obsession and revenge. Without a blow being struck (except for the viola wound to the player who makes unwanted advances), this is very cool-blooded revenge.

The performance of Deborah Francois is a perfect blend of gentility and malice. Audiences may remember her powerful role as the young mother in the Dardennes Brothers' The Child. Catherine Frot matches her as the pianist.

The overall plot reminds us of those dramas where a stranger enters a household and transforms (for the worse) the life of each member of the family (from Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane to Pasolini's Teorema). This version is low-key and subdued but nonetheless effective in portraying malevolence and cruelty.

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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