The newest 'Madame Bovary' is authentic in spirit and period style

On movies

December 27, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

GUSTAVE Flaubert's ''Madame Bovary'' has been filmed so many times, you might legitimately assume that most people are aware of this character and her hapless life experience.

Wrong. Many people, apparently, are not aware of this classic novel, so to them, we recommend this latest film version by director Claude Chabrol (''The Cousins'').

''Madame Bovary'' first appeared in 1856. At the time, the author was taken to court on charges that he was endangering the morals of the very young.

The novel has been filmed at least four times. The lady of the title is a young woman who marries a physician and is so bored by it all that she has affairs with two men, a law clerk and a landowner.

She is also profligate with her husband's money, so much so that she is soon deeply in debt. When her creditors close in on her, she finds a tragic solution to her problems.

If you've seen the Jennifer Jones version (1949), you know what she does. If you are at all familiar with the story, there won't be that much suspense. There is, however, sincerity and dedication to the original source.

The new film is a little long, more than two hours, but it does intrigue. And that, considering the familiarity of its content, is no small accomplishment.

Isabelle Huppert is the unfortunate Emma Bovary, a farmer's daughter who marries a widower.

Jean-Francois Balmer is the doctor. Lucas Belvaux is the law clerk. Christophe Malavoy is the landowner, the man Emma may love most. When he deserts her, as gently as he can, she picks up with Leon, the clerk.

Chabrol filmed the movie near Roen, in northern France. It does have atmosphere. It also has, through locale and costume, authenticity.

0 ''Madame Bovary'' is playing at the Charles.

''Madame Bovary''

*** The story of Emma Bovary, the French woman who loved and spent more loosely than most women of her generation.

CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Francois Balmer, Christophe Malavoy, Lucas Belvaux

DIRECTOR: Claude Chabrol

RATING: No rating

RUNNING TIME: Two hours and five minutes

1% In French with English subtitles.

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