Films of the 00s: La Captive
"Chantal Akerman's elegant and admirably committed updating of Proust disentangles the notion of the controlling, possessive lover from the commercially overworked figures of either the brutish Svengali, throwing his weight around along with his fists, or the imperious hedonist of either gender, wielding a charismatic erotic arrogance that pitifully abjects the lover who just can't seem to say no or cry foul. By contrast to these enduring types, the sexual captor in Akerman's movie is a pale, ageless, rabbit-eyed, neurasthenic male of the Ian Bostridge stripe, whose physical frailty ironically contrasts but hardly neutralizes the vigor of his proprietary impulses. His name is Simon Levy (Stanislas Merhar), and though he's too restless, mobile, attentive, and jealous to be a simp, he often makes comments despite his cream-complexioned youth that call to mind those aging, terminally incommoded women who nonetheless rule their respects roosts with barely contested authority in any number of 19th-century English novels. Bathing before a pane of frosted and beveled glass, on the other side of which his coveted lover Ariane (Sylvie Testud) also languishes in a tub, Simon rhapsodizes in his peculiar, semi-detached way about the visual, textural, and aromatic wonders of Ariane's body, her skin, her vaginawhile nonetheless imploring her to give herself a good scrub. 'If it weren't for my allergy and all the pollen you bring in,' he says, 'I almost wish you'd never wash,' a line that would work as either a wry or a broad comic indictment of brattish, whey-livered romantics who guard, relish, but find themselves intimidated by the robust materiality of the women they idolize and thereby objectify..."
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