Vengeful Student Destroys Pianist

By Carla Pineda

A pianist’s page turner is often the ignored assistant that is
responsible for understanding musical composition and also
developing an intuitive sense of what the musician expects. This
relationship can divert from being a professional one into one
where the page turner becomes the musician’s emotional crutch.

In “The Page Turner,” Deborah Francois gives her character
Melanie Prouvost layers of personality by retaining her small
town-girl bashfulness while an ever present vengeful glint in her
eye is evident as she carries out her plan to destroy a woman’s
life. Melanie waits years to reap her vengeance in a quiet and
eerie manner. Catherine Frot plays Ariane Fouchecourt, the famous
concert pianist who distracted Melanie during her entrance exam to
Conservatory and caused the young girl to fail and give up on her
musical dreams.

Melanie’s eyes were very powerful throughout the film. Julie
Richalet played young Melanie who hardly spoke but clearly
expressed herself through her gaze.

During a scene in which Melanie leaves the exam room she is
crying but instead of youthful sorrow, she spits angry fire out her
eyes. After failing the test, Melanie stares at a classmate that is
practicing for her exam and quickly drops the key cover clearly
intending to crush her fingers.

The musically gifted girl turns away from her passion and takes
up a different career path. Some years later she becomes an intern
to a lawyer who coincidentally is husband to Ariane Fouchecourt.
Melanie knew who he was from researching the company before being
hired so she jumped at an opportunity to be his live-in
babysitter.

Seemingly shy, Melanie quickly becomes aware of her surroundings
and begins to take control of the household by gaining Ariane’s
trust. Not knowing who the young woman is, Ariane quickly warms up
to Melanie’s apparent admiration and emotional support and makes
her the page turner she needs for her upcoming concerts.

“The very first take made me realize that the meetings between
Catherine Frot and Deborah Francois should mostly be captured in
the same frame, like a cage in which two wild animals engage in
extraordinary combat,” said Dercourt in the movie’s press book.

Keeping graphic scenes to a minimum, Director Denis Dercourt had
Melanie use her sexuality as a powerful tool in her plan. Her gaze
pierced Ariane’s eyes penetrating her aloof and heterosexual
exterior.

Antoine Plateau seemed to have a thrifty costume budget because
the characters used the same clothing in several scenes but he gave
each character a look to accentuate their personalities. Despite
this limited wardrobe, each character wore key pieces that showed
their status or purpose in the film.

Melanie for example, wore longer skirts in muted colors to
appear conservative but when she sat next to her boss to turn the
pages of music, she wore lower cut blouses to seduce her. Ariane
wore her coat in several scenes, and it was especially symbolic
when she and Melanie went shopping. Her collar was lifted to show a
sense of financial superiority because she was the one buying
Melanie a dress just as a mother figure or even a boyfriend would
do for a loved one.

In this same scene, Melanie chooses a provocative halter dress
and leaves the dressing room curtain slightly open to reveal her
body to Ariane.

Deborah Francois displayed the ability to keep Melanie quiet,
shy and trustworthy while maintaining her wicked intentions just
visible enough for the viewer to capture. Although knowing
Melanie’s purpose creates a dramatic irony, the coy manner in which
she carries out her vengeance keeps the audience interested because
it is unexpected.

Revenge is usually perceived as a bloody and gory process but
Melanie causes extensive psychological damage to a marriage,
provokes the end of a career and triggers bodily injury to a
talented young musician all with a short stay in a family’s
home.

Keeping her moves subtle but precise, she passively retaliates
against the woman who thoughtlessly ruined her future.

Melanie’s peaceful departure is the worst thing she could do
after the relationship she cultivates with the family and the
turmoil she creates within it.

The 82-minute French film has subtitles that make it easy to
follow even for those who do not understand the language.

An acclaimed film in its home country, “The Page Turner” was
nominated for the Best Actress, Best Music Written for a Film and
Most Promising Actress French Cesar Awards.

The rolling American release began Friday in New York and will
open in Los Angeles on March 30 in select theaters.

Carla Pineda can be reached by e-mail at arts@thepolypost.com or
by phone at (909) 869-3744.

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