From the Land of the Moon (Mal de pierres) (R)

Drama 120 min. August 11, 2017
By Abbey Bender
From the Land of the Moon is an elegantly shot tale of l'amour fou that could be eyeroll-inducing were its leads not so charismatic. In post-World War II France, Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard), a free-spirited but troubled sophisticate, is married against her will to a farmer, Jose (Alex Brendemühl). Sent to a sanatorium to recuperate from health issues, Gabrielle meets the excellently named Andre Sauvage (Louis Garrel), a handsome injured veteran with whom she begins an affair. Garrel, with his bedroom gaze and Roman nose, makes a fine foil to the coarse husband, but at times the emphasis upon his sensitivity (He plays piano! He has elegant hands! He reads!) is a touch too obvious. It's inevitable that Gabrielle and Andre will end up making love -- director Nicole Garcia photographs them in sculptural tableaus straight out of a romance novel.

In the final act, the narrative takes a twist that veers into the realm of psychological horror. This reveal (which I won't spoil here) is borderline absurd, but fits in with the overheated, tragic narrative. Cotillard, her character suffering from vaguely defined physical and mental illness, gives a performance reminiscent of Isabelle Adjani in the '70s and '80s -- all wide, sad blue eyes, and bodily flailing. The film could be shorter and perhaps more logical, and as the soap-opera drama builds, the timeline becomes muddled. Still, there's something pleasantly old-fashioned about its commitment to grandiose emotion. The enduring image is of Cotillard, in a demure sweater and long skirt, gazing from a distance at the dreamy Garrel. From the Land of the Moon prioritizes a woman's longing, and casts everything in a gauzy, melodramatic light.
Nicole Garcia Marion Cotillard, Javier Cámara, Louis Garrel Nicole Garcia, Jacques Fieschi IFC Films


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