The release of French director Patrice Leconteís latest film THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE proves that he is one of the most versatile directors working in film today. Anyone who saw last yearís hit THE GIRL ON THE BRIDGE will note that the mood, the setting and the pacing are so different in this film that itís easy to think they were made by two different directors.One thing both films share, though, is a strongly romantic story that is a mix of both a classical style filmmaking and fairy tale. But where GIRL ON THE BRIDGE was about the joys and circumstances of destiny THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE is about the sorrows and inevitability of fate.
In the late 19th century a convicted murderer (played by Emir Kusurica, the award winning filmmaker) is brought to a small desolate French Island colony off the coast of Newfoundland where he is sentenced to death. But his willing executioners donít have a guillotine or an executioner to kill him so - while the officials wait for the guillotine to be shipped from Paris - they put him into the custody of a French Military Captain (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife, Madame La. (Juliette Binoche, looking better than ever). Over the course of a few months Madame La Ė who is a modern woman with an altruistic streak - befriends the murderer and in time the community too accepts him.
Concerning capital punishment the film is a humanistic one with a streak of black comedy, but at its heart it is really about the Captain -- a man of principle who loves his wife so much that he refuses to carry out the orders to execute the murderer.
Daniel Auteuil plays the Captain as a stoic but imposing man who reproaches anyone who defies his authority. But in the back of his mind he knows that his actions are insubordinate to the state and will surely lead to his own execution.THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE has a few drawbacks, mainly that it establishes its story so quickly that at first the characterís motivations are difficult to comprehend or believe. It is also a bit too sentimental (or romantic) for its own good. But due to both Patrice Leconteís gifted filmmaking talents and the work of the cast the story becomes involving and quite affecting. Plus, the cinematography by Eduardo Serra gives the film an unforgettably magnificent sense of time and place.-- Matt Langdon