(director/writer: Marine (Francen) Franssen; screenwriters: book L’homme de semence by Violette Ailhaud /Jacqueline Surchat/Jacques Freschi; cinematographer: Alain Duplantier; editor: Minori Akimoto; music: Frederic Vercheval; cast: Pauline Burlet (Violette), Alban Lenoir (Jean), Geraldine Pailhas (Marianne), Francoise Lebrun (Blanche), Iliana Zabeth(Rose), Raphaëlle Agogué(Louise); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sylvie Pialat; Canal+/Bteam Pictures; 2017-France/Belgium-in French with English subtitles)

The period piece is an alluring first feature of Marine Franssen.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The period piece is an alluring first feature of Marine Franssen. It was winner of the New Directors award at San Sebastian. It’s a true story but sounding like a fable, that in its altered form (changes location) tells us what happens when all the men disappear from a remote Alpine village that needs to procreate and regenerate in order to survive. The photography is visually breathtaking. The cast is almost all female. It’s based on the 1919 short story of 38 pages published in 2006 entitled L’homme de semence by Violette Ailhaud, and is written by Franssen, Jacqueline Surchat and Jacques Freschi. It’s set in 1852. The army of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte crushes the resistance of the Republicans.Violette (Pauline Burlet) lives in the foothills of a remote Alpine mountain village. With all the local men of the resistance arrested by Napoleon’s troops, the girls spend months in total isolation. Violette and the other girls, encouraged by her, thereby take an oath: if a man comes, he will be the one they all share. Soon afterwards a stranger wanders into the village, Jean (Alban Lenoir), who is a travelling blacksmith. Tensions erupt over the vow made by the ladies, as matters of love arise. Using the background of the grape harvest as symbolism for the feminist subtext, the aesthetic film moves forward raising emotional tensions among the women. Critics have compared it with Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled of this year and Don Siegel’s original version in 1971-only this seductive film eschews violence.