The Duchess Of Langeais

One of the most beautiful pictures so far this year

REVIEW Acclaimed director Jacques Rivette is still at the top of his game with his latest film, adapted from an Honoré de Balzac novella. The Duchess of Langeais is an opulent period drama that doesn't feel like one — its story is fresh and alive, and has contemporary resonance. Guillaume Depardieu (Gerard's son) gives a winning performance as the handsome general Armand de Montriveau. Humiliated when he's refused by the Duchess (played flawlessly by Jeanne Balibar), it is only when seeking his revenge that he awakens her love. Photographed by William Lubtchansky, Duchess easily has to be one of the most beautiful pictures so far this year. With the richest art direction and wardrobe the genre has to offer, Rivette's new wave sensibility shines through. Existential wit and love à la de Sade bring to life Paris of the 1820s, a juicy setting riddled with hypocrisy and vanity. Duchess evokes two films from 1975: Françoise Truffaut's The Story of Adele H and Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Bombarded as we are with blockbuster-style films that are about as personal as a box of cereal, the release of this film is notable. Told almost exclusively in cool blues, Rivette holds up the mirror to our Bonaparte-esque swollen faces, revealing decadence-gone-awry results that wouldn't be out of place in the 21st century.

THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS Opens Fri/21 in Bay Area theaters.