It’s a simple story – married man meets woman and they flirt in a restrained manner. Will they consummate their slowly budding relationship? How much will it mean to us if they do or don’t?
Unfortunately these bare bones of a premise are all there is to sift through in this extremely spare French film adaptation off a 1996 Éric Holder novel.
The man is a stoical mason played by Vincent Lindon who we often see on his job smashing walls with a mallet.
The woman is the title character played by Sandrine Kiberlain – a new schoolteacher in town (an unnamed village in France) who asks Lindon to come to her home to fix a drafty window.
After finishing the job, Lindon sees that Kiberlain has fallen asleep in her bedroom and he pokes around her apartment taking interest in the fact that she plays the violin.
When she awakes he asks her to perform the instrument for him. After some hesitation she complies, but with her back turned to him.
He is transfixed by her, but nothing romantic happens between them – yet.
Lindon’s wife (Aure Atika) gradually feels that her husband is drifting away which is confirmed at a Birthday party the family has for Lindon’s father (Jean-Marc Thibault).
Kiberlain plays the violin for Thibault and Atika witnesses her husband’s suppressed passion. There is quiet beauty in several sequences in “Mademoiselle Chambon” but it isn’t enough to make for a vital movie going experience.
The camera lingers on too many sad shots which make the film feel padded. The characters are supposedly suffering inside, but we only get broad surfaces that never bring us inside this material.
Lindon and Kiberlain were once married in real life and there is a palpable chemistry between them especially in a tense scene in which they sit and listen to a CD of chamber music together, their hands finding each others naturally.
This scene is indeed effective and if the rest of the movie had its hold we might have something special here. As it stands however, MADEMOISELLE CHAMBON is too slight, too twee, to be a memorable experience.
MADEMOISELLE CHAMBON is now playing at the Colony Theater in Raleigh. Check the theater's website for showtimes.