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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hurlevent (aka Wuthering Heights) (1985)

Jacques Rivette takes the Emily Bronte classic WUTHERING HEIGHTS and takes almost all the Bronte out of it. Updated from the mid 19th century Yorkshire moors to the 1930s French countryside, Rivette keeps the skeleton of the plot and goes through the motions but it's curiously absent of passion, surely a fatal mistake if one is doing WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Rivette's Catherine (Fabienne Babe) is a bitch, something she never was in the Bronte novel. Isabella (Alice De Poncheville), called Isabel here, the novel's unwitting innocent here becomes complicit in her own masochistic victimization. The venal Hindley (Olivier Cruveiller), called Guillaume here, of the novel becomes quite sympathetic and an almost tragic figure under Rivette. It becomes an interesting and at times engrossing experiment in taking a novel and stripping it down and then rebuilding it but rarely more than that. Only in the film's final scene, beautifully rendered, is there a touch of Bronte. The acclaimed 1939 Wyler should have ended this way. With Lucas Belvaux as a most insipid Heathcliff (called Roch in the film) and in the film's most appealing performance, Sandra Montaigu as the housekeeper Helene (the Ellen of the novel) who utters, "You're all mad. I'm the only one with common sense". I don't think anyone will argue with her.

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