Cheri - A Review of the Movie

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Weary of robots, big-budget SFX  and movies with a “message”? Twenty-one years after Dangerous Liaisons, director Stephen Frears and the ever gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer team up in Cheri, a period romance based on celebrated French author Colette’s two novels, Cheri and La Fin de Cheri.

The tagline gives  a glimpse of what’s in store – “In the game of seduction, never fall in love”. But the heart has its own reasons, as the aging, but still lovely courtesan,  Lea discovers. The setting for the movie is Paris in the decade before the Great War. French society’s La Belle Epoque was an era when beautiful, accomplished courtesans amassed huge fortunes by seducing rich, elderly men and spent their retired life in splendid luxury.  Lea’s one time rival is Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates), who approaches her with a strange request – to reform her 19-year-old callow brat of a son, Cheri (played by Rupert Friend).  Inevitably, Lea and Cheri become lovers, spending a blissful, passionate six years together. But Madame Peloux wants out and arranges Cheri’s marriage with another courtesan’s daughter.  Lea and Cheri decide to part ways, only to discover later, the depth of their feelings for one another.

Cheri’s appeal has less to do with plot than with character and sharply witty conversation, staying  true to the spirit of Colette’s novels.  Shot in Paris and Biarritz among other locations, the film is all visual splendour, the elegant, slow charm of another age recreated in fabulous detail.

Michelle Pfeiffer as the courtesan at the end of her career and Rupert Friend, the boy who refuses to grow up, are perfectly cast for their roles,  a couple who treat love as an enjoyable pastime, not realising its destructive powers.  Watch the movie for these two, as well as Alan MacDonald’s superb production design and Consolata Boyle’s breathtaking costumes. Splendid music and cinematography by Alexander Desplat and Darius Khondji respectively, add to the must-have factors that make this a good acquisition for those who like to buy movies.

The DVD box cover’s promise of extras don’t amount to very much, just two minutes of deleted scenes and a brief making-of-the-movie. Buy this DVD if you like leisurely paced, stylish period dramas. For reasons unknown, the Blu-ray release is yet to happen.

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