(Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, Rupert Friend, et al / DVD / NR / 2009 / Miramax)
Overview: Twenty-one years after striking Oscar gold with Dangerous Liaisons, director Stephen Frears and actress Michelle Pfeiffer re-team with screenwriter Christopher Hampton for Chéri -- another movie about privileged, sex-obsessed French people who wear layer upon layer of fabulous clothing.
DVD Verdict: A rapture of visual, audio and cinematic emotional brilliance all tied with a killer last line. What a wonder is set before the viewer when one enters the world of "Cheri".
The visual richness of this parfait of the Belle Epoch is breathtaking from the rich creamy art neuveau architecture to the gloriously realized costumes of the early 20th century. What they only indicated in "Titanic" of the same period costumes. Explodes in luxury and in a sense informs the eye to the scene at hand and seems less costume than authentic clothing.
As Cinema "Cheri" succeeds as more than an adaptation of a Collette novel but becomes a world unto it's own. Here we are presented with some of our finest female performers at the top of their game. In short I am speaking of Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates. As former courtesan rivals who are now aging friends they come together to define the last part of their lives and the beginning of Bates' son's life in a remarkable way.
Kathy Bates goes deep into the complexities of her mix of comedy and nuanced drama in the same way she did with Annie Wilkes. Not to say that the characters of Annie and Madame Peloux are anything alike. But Miss Bates takes this role to a superior level while all the while not letting you see her do her magic. She is just THERE! The scene where her face decays from a radioactively sunny laugh to reveal her true deepest disgust her spoiled soul is priceless.
Then there is Michelle Pfeiffer as Lea de Lonval, at fifty one she may be older that the literary Lea but she has never been more luminous or nearly goddess like. To look at her is to look upon a woman of a certain age that is ageless in her embrace of times changing hands upon her face. But there is more. This may be the pinnacle of her career, the role of her lifetime. She is Lea in so many levels both within her acting and in a sense as an actress. She is stunning and brings forth the soul of a great character as only our finest actors can.
But all of this would seem a delightful trifle, a light story of an aging courtesan and her young lover if it were not for the narration that gives the film added depth and gravitas. [MCS] This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.