La belle endormie
France, 2010, 82 min
On the heels of the mesmeric Bluebeard (SFIFF 2009), French auteur Catherine Breillat again delves into the piquant fairy tales of Charles Perrault for this singular, sparkling film, a reverie and rumination over slumbering lives and awakening sexual and mortal consciousness. Opening on some half-dreamed late-modern world, The Sleeping Beauty playfully sets up the story of young princess Anastasia (a delightfully quick and valiant Carla Besnaïnou), cursed at birth by a wicked fairy/crone to die in her sixth year. Fortunately for Anastasia, three beautiful young fairies counter the spell, at least a bit, sending the six-year-old instead into a 100-year slumber, from which she will wake into contemporary French society a ripe 16-year-old. First, though, our heroine, a defiant tomboy, will wander long in a dream world. There she finds and loses an adoptive brother, Peter, who lives with his mother in a country house set evocatively beside a train track. Going in search of the roving Peter—her brother, prince and first love—she meets a series of young princes and princesses (“Blue bloods stick together,” she explains) in strange faraway lands before a real-life prince, grandson of Peter, wakes her into her 16-year-old self. From there, another awakening begins, or perhaps one spell is broken and another cast. Breillat’s aesthetic fashions a world at once palpable and ethereal, itself a waking dream, with a ludic insouciance that delights in combining allusive, painterly detail with makeshift and anachronistic improvisations. As much a tonic to the intellect as the senses, The Sleeping Beauty will keep you up all night.