Augustine Screen 10 articles

Augustine

2012

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  • Winocour, a graduate of France’s film school La Fémis, seems to possess all the sophistication and eye for beauty that one associates with her fellow alumni. And yet as soon as Augustine is sent to the hospital (full of girls meant to be sick and lame but who look like they were cast by Elite Models), the film loses its footing and plateaus in a cliché doctor/patient romance.

  • The girl is, in fact, most interesting when she’s having a fit. Winocour skillfully films Augustine being exhibited for other doctors in several disturbingly erotic scenes, but elsewhere Soko’s stolid, one-note demeanor takes a toll. The script, which gives Augustine no background and mostly shows her either being “treated” or having an episode, doesn’t help.

  • This isn’t an opulent, ball-gown 19th century, but a dim, hardscrabble one, where everything must be cleaned by hand, and getting mud on your clothes is a source of boundless anxiety. Whenever the movie tries to reach for something bigger—like when it tries to tie its hospital/drawing-room drama to a larger world—it ends up being stifled by its own style.

  • Vague conjurings of mood take the place of insight, sentiment takes the place of complexity, and a clumsy and superficial attention to the rigid script keeps the movie from coming to life.

  • Set in the late 19th century, this debut feature by Alice Winocour recalls the historical dramas of Benoit Jacquot (Sade; Farewell, My Queen) in the way it inverts the genre dynamic, emphasizing psychology over period ambience... For the most part, though, the psychosexual drama plays out beneath the surface—the movie is so understated it sometimes feels inert.

  • [Augustine and Charcot's] is a forever uneasy relationship, fueled by anxieties sexual and otherwise. Both actors stay locked-up and remote, as though their bodies were prisons. But while Augustine sporadically gets a crazed release, Charcot is forever trapped inside himself. Lindon’s performance is the type perfected by Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”: staying rigid and stern while emotions roil deep inside. This, too, is an actorly stunt. And it works every time.

  • Like other French movies of late, Alice Winocour's "Augustine" has a lot of surface appeal, especially in its terrific lead performances and handsome visual manner, but little depth or originality in its approach to an intriguing subject: the medical uses made of a female "hysteric" in late 19th-century Paris. Ultimately, while this character-based drama proves consistently engrossing, it leaves various pertinent and fascinating issues frustratingly unexplored.

  • Scientific examination takes on a strange, sensual quality in Augustine, a daring French drama about the rocky clinical relationship between 19th-century neurologist Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon) and his star teenage patient. Director Alice Winocour's intense focus on the human body allows this tone to flourish, whether it's the way legs contort during a seizure or how the back stiffens when stricken with paralysis.

  • [Augustine and Charcot's] contrasting trajectories, and particularly Augustine's rise, run the risk of transposing a contemporary feminist vision onto a 19th-century setting, but Winocour never entirely loses sight of the historical period she's portraying. Even as Augustine realizes Charcot's self-serving motivations and discovers her power over him, a slight frailty and fear always remains.

  • While the good doctor’s [Freud's] demos are portrayed as harrowingly pornographic spectacles, it’s the private interactions—the insertion of a needle, the force-feeding of soup—that prove most prurient. With one paw paralyzed and her milky skin offset by thick black pigtails, Soko is a fetish object in motion, albeit one that marvelously evolves from exploited victim to self-possessed woman—a protofeminist in both body and mind.

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