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27 days to watch
315 Ratings

The Duchess of Langeais

Ne touchez pas la hache

Directed by Jacques Rivette
France, Italy, 2007
Drama, Romance, History
  • French
  • English


General Montriveau, having returned from the Napoleonic Wars in despair, quickly becomes enamored with Duchess Langeais. Across a series of nocturnal visitations, the Duchess mercilessly toys with her hot-tempered suitor, as the machinations of a shadowy conspiracy unfold in the background…

Our take

After taking Balzac in radically new directions with 1971’s conspiracy epic Out 1, Jacques Rivette returned to the author for this silken, haunting tale of romantic obsession. On the surface: a costume drama; underneath: the dark shadows of doomed love. With Jeanne Balibar and Guillaume Depardieu.

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The characters of The Duchess of Langeais are caught in a kind of lateral sweep, a waltz with the camera, at first leading, then being led in turn. The action is so self-perpetuating—the soaring emotion and cruel sadism of Langeais and Montriveau’s love games, for which we have no interior reference, as well as the whirling of dancers as they glide around the room—that it outpaces even the darting tracks and pans of the camera at every moment.
December 11, 2015
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The love story that ensues is as wild and irrational as anything conceived by Emily Bronté.
July 16, 2008
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This is Rivette’s third film to draw from Balzac, but the first actually set in the Restoration period. This distinction may not be particularly important; his filmmaking has never, even when couched in the most contemporary of milieus, seemed the property of this century: who in this hectic millennium has time to watch such famously endless movies? This is much of what makes Rivette so likable; his work is so singular as to be completely improbable.
February 21, 2008
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