Mademoiselle opens in a small town in the rural countryside of France. We follow "Mademoiselle", the town's school teacher as she opens the gates of a dam, flooding a large stable and subsequently drowning some of the town's livestock. When the townspeople discover that the flooding was no accident, everyone blames Manou, the Italian immigrant. Manou risked his life rescuing some of the livestock and yet every French character views him as an outsider and a nuisance regardless of his good intentions. With the viewer knowing the young schoolteacher is in fact responsible, the film begins a curious game as to this woman's intentions. Tony Richardon's Mademoiselle is a slow-burning thriller soaked in themes pertaining to xenophobia, religion, sexual oppression, and lust. Early on, Mademoiselle plays more like a mystery, spending equal time with Manou and the young school teacher. Details slowly unfold in the narrative which suggest the young teacher's strong attraction to the man and that's when we begin to realize that these calamities (the flood, field fires, etc.) are being used by her as a way to control the handsome Manou. The religious aspect is subtle but important as a key to understanding the school teachers warped perception. She is a woman who appears to have never experienced this type of carnal attraction, viewing it as a grave sin. This lack of understanding leads her to take out her frustration and lust on Manou in warped ways including berating his son daily in school. Mademoiselle also touches on xenophobia, showing how Manou and his son are continually outcast, regardless of how helpful and complacent they are. Manou is seen coming to the rescue in quite a few scenes and yet the townspeople are completely blind to this fact, letting their per-conceived hate blind them. Shot in stark black and white cinematography, Mademoiselle features tons of fantastic and impactful imagery. This combined with a lack of score or any musical number really give this film an almost biblical type feel. Rich in thematic intention, Mademoisselle is an experience too behold and regardless of it completely succeeds, the film's lofty intentions are still greatly appreciated.
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