Catherine Breillat's version of the sinister fairy tale has, as one might expect, a notable feminist accent. Impoverished by the death of their father, two sisters are obliged to leave their convent school.
One of them, Marie-Catherine (Lola Créton), saves the family from destitution by marrying the wealthy local baron, Bluebeard (Dominique Thomas, a ringer for De Niro's penitent priest in The Mission) who, as we know, has been married several times before... The physical contrast between the couple is marked – she's a slip of a thing, he's a great hulking brute – though one suspects the sight was not uncommon for the (medieval) time. The film is framed by Breillat's device of two young sisters reading the story in the 1950s, which has the unfortunate effect of stalling the narrative rhythm. But the careful tableaux and creeping horror of the young wife's entrapment have a potent charge. It is by some distance this director's most watchable film.