Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tribeca with Abe: White As Snow

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which ran April 24th – May 5th.

White As Snow
Directed by Anne Fontaine
International Narrative Competition

The story of Snow White has been told countless times. In recent years, there have been at least three distinctly memorable and very different interpretations, the blockbuster “Snow White and the Huntsman,” the more playful “Mirror, Mirror,” and the modern-day Spanish film “Blancanieves.” This film most closely matches the latter of those, transplanting both characters and concepts closer to modern times, hoping to find some new meaning from presenting familiar events in a setting that alters their impact. While it’s decently rewarding to recognize reshaped facets, that’s hardly enough to make a complete movie.

Claire (Lou de Laâge) works as a maid at the hotel managed by her late father’s new wife, Maud (Isabelle Huppert), who plays nice to her stepdaughter but harbors deep jealousy for the way that the younger woman is looked at and treated by every man she meets. When Claire goes jogging along the side of the road, she is abducted and manages, through sheer coincidence, to escape execution by an assassin. Aware that someone wants her dead, Claire takes up residence in a small town in the country, befriending a number of men who interact with her through different roles but all seek to spend time in her company as Maud carefully monitors signs of life from the stepdaughter she thought had been killed.

There’s a distinctly French air to this film that is only partially due to its language and setting. Maud’s feelings towards her stepdaughter are never expressed aloud to Claire, and it almost seems not to occur to Claire that anyone might be wondering about her whereabouts following her sudden disappearance. As she begins a new life, Claire does the opposite of what might be expected of a person in her situation, which is to trust everyone around her. The amount of sex in this film is best described as tiring, since Claire almost feels less like a character than an idea, one which doesn’t really fit with the sweet-natured victim of this otherwise recognizable story.

Though there are deep issues with the character and the film surrounding her, de Laâge offers a performance that at least explains why it is that all the men she meets are so drawn to her. Huppert, an Oscar nominee in 2016 for “Elle” and the star of a film from earlier this year with protagonists of similar ages, “Greta,” delivers well in certain scenes, but the film doesn’t make enough use of the talent it has. This is more a fable than a film, a creative idea that doesn’t bloom after its birth.


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