Madame Bovary (1991)

And finally we reach the end of the Claude Chabrol box. This is something of the odd man out in the set, separated from the others by time (nearly two decades) and style (period rather than contemporary drama). That said, it looks more like a Chabrol film when you consider how it’s played, and the more the film went on the harder it became to escape the feeling that Chabrol should’ve just taken the broad plot and updated it to the present (as the very first film version apparently did), which would probably have been more fun to watch. As it stands, well, I wasn’t expecting an awful lot from this, so I can’t say I was disappointed per se; I actually read Flaubert’s novel a few years ago when I went through a period of trying to catch up with “great literature” I’d never read, and frankly I didn’t care much for it, so I didn’t really expect to enjoy the film either. I see a couple of common complaints in other reviews, that Chabrol is too in awe of the material and that Isabelle Huppert is miscast as Emma Bovary. The first point is probably arguable but the latter is much less so, I think; Huppert essentially plays the title role in fairly cold and limited fashion that doesn’t really suggest the character of the novel. Then again, some of the IMDB comments wonder if the book could ever make a decent film, given that it’s as much about Flaubert’s prose style and his endless quest for le mot juste as it is the actual story told thereby; maybe that’s why it didn’t work on screen (or maybe even in printed translation?). Of course, the length of the thing (markedly longer than any of the other films in the set) did it no favours either, not at that pace anyway…

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