Despite having a half British cast and production credits this was undoubtably a French, about literature and sex and bread, full of whimsy and the strikingly weird.
Quite simply GEMMA BOVERY is about an English woman (Gemma Arteton) who, with her older husband escapes the London hustle for the simple life in the French countryside. Along the way men aplenty are enamoured by her and as such her life begins to more and more resemble Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovery’. Martin (Fabrice Luchini), Frenchman and baker extraordinaire is the narrator and ring master of this bizarre but relatively amusing story.However while it was all in all light hearted and jolly, it seemed to take everything a bit too far resulting in a film that was perhaps too silly to be taken seriously.
There were other/certain elements that became grating to me. One being the constant sexualisation of Arteton. I understand the intent; she is supposed to represent a character known for her infidelity, and men are supposed to fall for her. But there are only so many times the camera can pan up and down her body, lingering on her tits. We barely got to see below the surface of what was clearly (or at least had the potential to be) a very complex character.
One scene in particular to demonstrate this was shot in a bakers kitchen and could only be described as ‘Sexy Bread Porn’. Slow lingering shots of hands kneading soft supple dough, close ups of open lips, heavy breathing and beads of sweat dripping down her neck. Moaning and groaning while Martin watches on, wide eyed and gawping , stretching beyond voyeuristic to downright pervy.
Another problem for me was the perpetual fetishisation of Gemma’s Englishness. Poor uncultured English folk, who know nothing of good literature, who think white wine and curry makes for a sophisticated dinner party. Come young large breasted English girl, let me seduce you with my sexy French accent and pan au chocolat. Gemma curiously pointing at each bread with her far from RP accent spurting “what’s that one…and that one…yep I’ll ‘av one o’ those”. It just all got a bit much, a bit tedious and past the point of farcical.
I believe Anne Fontaine has the ability to be a fantastic, award-winning director but, for me, her films always end up being a little too superficial, and as a result end up paying less attention to storyline. It is also a shame because the last graphic novel of Posy Simmond’s that was made into a film (also featuring Arteton) TAMARA DREWE was witty, tip-toed the line of silliness but stayed firmly on the side that made you want to watch more. This unfortunately did not. That is not to say that you couldn’t sit down with a baguette and a glass of vin rouge on a Sunday afternoon and have a pretty good time, just don’t expect fireworks. GEMMA BOVERY was like a strong Camembert, very cheesy.