french films > Riviera



cast: Miou-Miou , Vahina Giocante, Élie Semoun

year: 2005

colour: yes


director: Anne Villacèque

runtime: 94

Emotional dysfunction, repressed sexuality and Southern sunshine make a potently disturbing combination in this subtle, intense portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship. Middle-aged single mother Antoinette (Miou-Miou) is a chambermaid in an upmarket Côte d'Azur hotel, while her glamorous teenage daughter Stella (Giocante) works nights as a go-go dancer. Taking a vicarious interest in her daughter's love life, Antoniette indirectly sets her up with a 'suitable' man, an estate agent staying at the hotel. The results are initially queasily farcical, then take a more sombre turn. Riviera's view of the world, and of sexual politics, is unforgiving and acidic, but the film's special edge lies in its indirection. Villacèque evokes a nuanced relationship between mother and daughter even though they remain apart for most of the film, and her refusal to provide too much back story leaves us to draw our own conclusions about the roots of both women's emotional damage. Powerful, troubling performances by Miou-Miou and Giocante (seen last year in the Festival in Lila Says) combine with an oblique narrative and deceptively hot-toned photography to provide a dark, unsettling picture of the Côte that the brochures don't show you.


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