Opening 3 May 2007
Mélanie (Julie Richalet) is a French girl, an only child, and old beyond her ten years. At first glance she is plain, determined, musically talented, industrious, and very much aware of her proletarian family situation. Her father is a butcher and their home is simple. She ruins an opportunity to begin studies at the Music Conservatory because the president of the jury, Ariane Fouchécourts (Catherine Frot), vainly allows an interruption which causes Mélanie to falter during her piano presentation. She resolutely shuts that chapter of her life, although her kind father would finance further piano lessons. Ten years later grown-up Mélanie (Déborah François) has changed outwardly from a duckling into a swan, but inwardly she is seething with resentment against the person whom she blames for blocking her future: pianist Ariane, who lives in a mansion in a park, is married to a successful lawyer and has a musically gifted son. Ariane is at a career cross roads. Her husband decides that she is especially vulnerable in this time of crisis and needs a companion. Enter Mélanie who becomes indispensable. What great luck to have found someone well versed in music, who can even turn the pages during piano performances.
This is a film about sweet, perfect, precise revenge, which Mélanie expertly and patiently realizes over several weeks. I agree with the press notes which say that French director Denis Dercourt created a subtle thriller using just glances, gestures, and slight indications. It’s not surprising that his fifth film concerns the music world, considering that he played solo viola in the Orchestre Symphonique Française. The script could have come from Ruth Rendall, alias Barbara Vine, but in this case was from multi-talented Dercourt and Jacques Sotty. Through the straight-on camera work, the film seems to be simple, in a European way, but it is not boring. I personally believe that Mélanie, having achieved her goal, lived happily ever after. And I wouldn’t be surprised if soon there is an American remake. We film critics had a discussion afterwards and definitely disagreed with a colleague who thought that “people can not really be that bad and Mélanie actually did love Ariane somewhat.”
My colleague Erica Fox-Zabusky comments: I have had the opportunity to turn pages for the great and not so great during my six years with the Philadelphia Orchestra, even making my page-turning debut on the stage of Carnegie Hall! It can be extremely stressful, because you can't stop concentrating for a single minute, or you risk losing your place. I have collected some good stories, which I'd be happy to share. While it is true that most often the page turner is usually ignored, I have witnessed some piano greats who have turned to me following the performance to say "thank you" before standing to take a bow. That is the sign of a true professional. (Becky Tan)