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The Widow of St. Pierre

It's quite rare that one gets an opportunity to watch subtitled movies in the cinema, outside an actual film festival, even though films such as Crouching Tiger and Il Postino and the increasing use of subtitles in other movies have led to subtitles being generally accepted by the general cinema going public.

In this context I recently went to see a low key, but much heralded movie called The Widow of St Pierre starring two of France's best know stars; Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteil.

The Widow of St Pierre is set in 19th Century French Novia Scotia or Newfound Land.

The premise of the story is of a sailor who, on a somewhat drunken escapade with a colleague, murders a man and is arrested, found guilty and sentenced to death - The only crux of course is that there is no guillotine nor an executioner to carry out the execution and so a request must be sent to France for the necessaries to carry out the sentence.

In the meantime the prisoner is detained at the states pleasure in a cell in the local police captain's (Daniel Auteil) home. The captain is a quiet independent man dedicated to his job, who loves his wife more than anything and will do anything she asks, so when Madame le Captain (Juliette Binoche) takes sympathy on the prisoner, reckoning that everyone deserves a second chance, her wish is granted and the prisoner is soon helping her with her greenhouse and doing good deeds all over the island.

The real turning point comes when the prisoner stops a runaway cart saving a villagers life in the process, and soon the majority of the ordinary folk are adamant that this man has truly repented and that the sentence should no longer be carried out. However the guillotine has been dispatched from Martinique and the authorities are adamant that the will of the Republique be served.

The climax of the film deals with the conflict and tensions between the ordinary people and the authorities along with the developing relationships between the prisoner and Madame and The Captain (and of course the gossip and innuendo surrounding the relationship) and how the whole thing resolves itself. It is one of those pleasant films dealing artily with duty, steadfastness, honour and dignity and it's carried off nicely albeit perhaps a little stretched out and gloomily in the end.

None the less I'd give it 3 stars out of 5 for ambience and the acting of the main characters especially Auteil (Previously best known as Ugolin from The classic Pagnol Florette Movies) who, like a good Bordeaux, is only improving as he ages.

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