MA BELLE, MY BEAUTY--LOVE IN THE SUN
Henri Matisse's iconographic painting, La Danse* depicts female, nude figures holding hands in a circle. Their faces remain deliberately obscured, leaving the fullness of the dancer's joy to the viewer's interpretation.
In Writer/Director Marion Hill's film, Ma Belle, My Beauty (2021), the South of France provides the backdrop for the ever-changing dynamics of a married couple and the wife's ex-lover who comes for a surprise visit. As the landscape and people of this region stimulated the master of Fauvism, so do these elements play a central role in Hill's film.
The major characters, Bertie (a sensuous Idella Johnson) a jazz singer from New Orleans, her husband, Fred, (Lucien Guignard) a French musician whose band includes Bertie, and Bertie's former paramour, Lane (Hannah Pepper-Cunningham) a free spirit, spend the first two-thirds of the movie either sullen and/or depressed. Not until a fourth, Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon) enters the story does the action begin to percolate.
What direction the plot goes or what decisions the characters make appears secondary. Yet, the circle gets broken; there are consequences for the participants' non-conformist behavior.
All the performers hit the right notes but Idella Johnson embodies the film's title, even when she sulks.
Ma Belle, My Beauty invites the audience to savor moments of hedonism juxtaposed with the banal drama of human jealousies. Either way, I sense Matisse would've enjoyed painting these figures.
Unrated. Sex, smoking and swearing. English/French (with subtitles).
(La Danse, Henri Matisse, 1910)
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Earlier reviews not seen on this website (before May 20, 2021) are available on https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/wendy-shreve/movies
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