The Page Turner
(La Tourneuse de Pages)

foreign films

The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de Pages)
Made in: France
Directed by: Denis Dercourt
Starring: Déborah François, Catherine Frot, Clotilde Mollet, Xavier De Guillebon, Pascal Greggory, Antoine Martynciow, Julie Richalet
Year: 2006

Synopsis: 10 year-old piano prodigy Mélanie Prouvost (Julie Richalet) wants nothing more than to be admitted to a prestigious music conservatory in Paris. But during her audition, one of the head adjudicators, Ariane (Catherine Frot), thoughtlessly allows a disruption.

Because of the distraction, Mélanie messes up and blows her chances of getting in. As a result, she resolves never to play the piano again.

Ten years later, Mélanie (now played by Déborah François), becomes an intern at a law firm. Establishing a good reputation with Jean Fouchécourt (Pascal Greggory), who runs the firm, Mélanie offers to look after Jean's son Tristan (Antoine Martynciow) during her vacation time. Arriving at Jean's home, we see that Mrs. Fouchécourt is none other than Ariane, the thoughtless adjudicator from way back then.

Ariane, a famous pianist who now plays professionally in a trio, is now in a fragile emotional state after surviving a car wreck several years ago. Not remembering the audition from ten years earlier, Ariane soon learns of Mélanie's knowledge of music and asks the girl to be her page turner.

Soon making herself indispensable to Ariane, Mélanie plans her methodical, devastating revenge which has apparently been years in the making...

The Good: As The Page Turner progresses, we really don't know what Mélanie has in mind. Does she really plan on destroying Ariane's life, or will she make peace with the past and rekindle her love of music? In that sense, the film does a pretty good job playing with your sense of anticipation. However...

The bad: ...The Page Turner isn't without it's bothersome flaws. Director Denis Dercourt doesn't develop Melanie's character enough to make us believe that she still hasn't gotten over a blown audition after ten years. And to be harboring a sense of revenge for that long? Sorry. Not buying it.

Furthermore, the cold, nearly emotionless demeanor of Déborah François, as she plays Mélanie, is just too weird. She exudes psycho creepiness, and just doesn't seem like the sort of person you'd invite into your house to look after a small child, to turn pages, etc. Yet, Ariane doesn't seem to notice a thing. Again, not buying it. Anyone who's that scary has got to have something evil up her sleeve.

And as a subplot, we're supposed to believe that there's an odd attraction between Ariane and Mélanie. Where the heck did that come from?

And although I'm not holding this next point against the film, there's an important scene when Ariane's trio performs a piece by Shostakovich. Even though I agree he was brilliant, I personally can't stand that composer.

I once had a piano instructor who must have had a weird man-crush on Shostakovich or something because he made me play his stuff all the time. For months I had to play song after song by that guy, and have learned to detest the sound of his style. If I hear his music on the radio, I change the channel. If I know it's being performed at a concert, I won't attend. If I meet a musician who's a fan I turn around and walk in the opposite direction. If I hear Shostakovich in my nightmares I wake up screaming and reach for the gun under my pillow.

Just kidding. I don't own a gun. But I don't like Shostakovich's music. Really, I don't.

Who would like this movie: The Page Turner has its clever moments as a revenge drama, but this isn't one of the stronger foreign films out there. The performances are good, but there are too many under-developed elements.

You'll probably get more out of this film if you're a pianist or classical music enthusiast, but overall, it's not as good as it could have been.

But at least the movie teaches you how to turn a cello into a weapon, should the need ever arise...

(2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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