A stately adaptation of Balzac’s novel The Duchess Of Langeais by veteran French director Jacques Rivette, this cruelly ironic costume drama unfolds in the salons, ballrooms and boudoirs of 1820s Restoration Paris. It’s in this gilded milieu that married socialite Antoinette ( Jeanne Balibar) flirtatiously toys with the affections of brooding Napoleonic General Armand De Montriveau (Guillaume Depardieu). The latter perpetrates an act of revenge that makes the coquettish Antoinette belatedly realise the depth of her own desires. Shot in long takes that nail the cat-and-mouse nature of the couple’s relationship, Don’t Touch The Axe reveals Rivette’s ability to tone-shift between comedy, romance and even adventure. Meanwhile, Balibar delivers a supremely arch portrayal of a woman whose every gesture and expression seem calculated for effect.
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