Directed by Nicole Garcia
Review by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Of the five French films that I have reviewed this year, three have either featured or starred Catherine Deneuve (I still have yet to see Dancer in the Dark, her latest film, which is actually in English). Certainly, she can get a film sold in America better than any of her colleagues, and she has been doing so for over 35 years. Amazingly, she seems to age at a small fraction of the pace of us mere mortals, and a good example of this miracle is her starring role in Place Vendôme.
Deneuve plays Marianne, the wife of Vincent Malivert (Bernard Fresson), who owns a large jewelry business in Paris. The pressures of diamond buying and dealing with the Russian mafia lead him to commit suicide by running his Mercedes into a trailer loaded with lumber. Marianne is left with a bankrupt business, some sort of weakening illness (which is never explained, but seems to go away by the end of the film), and two immense diamonds hidden in their house.
Her brother-in-law, Eric (François Berléand), has taken over the business, and wishes to sell it to Indian investors. She would rather sell the diamonds on her own, and get herself out of debt. Meanwhile, Nathalie (Emmanuelle Seigner), one of Malivert's top salespeople, has become romantically involved with another jeweler (Jacques Dutronc) with ties to the Russian mafia, who are now looking for those diamonds. And yet, somehow, Marianne manages to hook up with Nathalie's old boyfriend, Jean-Pierre (Jean-Pierre Bacri).
The story moves along rather quickly, often at the expense of comprehension. My limited grasp of French forces me to read the subtitles, but I do know when they diverge from the spoken dialogue, and that seemed to happen quite a bit. Whether this is to blame or not, I still felt like I was playing catch-up to the story the whole way through. Maybe this was intentional, but I didn't care for it.
Otherwise, the film was quite enjoyable, with many interesting twists in the plot. Seigner's performance was tolerable, which was a nice surprise. In fact, her casting was appropriate, because it required her to not only resemble a young Deneuve, but to play a young Marianne in a flashback sequence. It gave the film a nice Vertigo edge to keep it interesting.
Of course, getting lost in the world of Vertigo is a sublime pleasure, which cannot be duplicated. Place Vendôme works on its own terms, but it doesn't stand up to such a classic.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Place Vendôme (1998)
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan