All Things August: Alice Winocour’s “Augustine”

la-ca-mn-french-actresssinger-soko-finds-quiet-002When it comes to watching films of certain eras, genres, sub-genres, or countries, or watching films made by certain directors, cinematographers, studios, or even ones featuring certain actors, let’s face it, we can’t possibly see them all. Now, as diverse as I like to pride myself as being, I too have a number of gaps to fill within my ever ongoing quest to sample as much from the vast smorgasbord of film history as I possibly can before I die. This is why, starting this month (August) I will dedicate the last two weeks of each month to watching as many films as I can to movies that have the name of the month somewhere within their titles. Hopefully, come 12 months from now, this will be one more silly sub-sub-category of films that I can cross off my need-to-watch list.

A movie featuring a non-CGI monkey and multiple scenes of someone experiencing sexual delirium will not always result in a fine entertaining experience. It should, I have no doubt about that, yet here, Alice Winocour‘s (director/writer) film, which has both these things, does not. In fact, this was just downright dull.

The eponymous Augustine is a 19-year-old kitchen server (played by French pop star, Soko) who has been having seizures on a monthly basis, give or take. Being that this is 19th Century France, where the general rule of thinking was women + seizure = some sort of hysterics, she is sent to a hospital where other ladies are being treated for hysterical behavior as well. There she encounters an all male staff of doctors who have zero concept of the term bedside manner. They poke, prod and objectify their patients as if they were… well… objects, hence the term objectify. It doesn’t take long for Augustine to have one of her seizures, and apparently it’s a very fascinating one at that, fascinating enough to capture the interest of the hospital’s chief doctor, Le professeur Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon) anyway. In Augustine he see the perfect specimen to present to his hospital’s funders.

It is from this point on that we are asked to follow and care about the relationship between the professeur and his patient. However, I was only able to follow their relationship, and even that took more effort than it should have. What it comes down to is this movie is too dull to care about. I’m all for understated story lines presenting themselves via scripts filled with the mind sets of less is more, but if that was Winocour’s aim here than she definitely missed her mark. On a plus side, the costumes were pleasant enough to look at, as was the cinematography and acting, but in this instance these simple visual pleasures alone were not enough to give this film a pass.

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