21 May 2017



This really is the most incredible coincidence. Only a few days ago I watched and reviewed a fantastic Chinese film called I AM NOT MADAME BOVARY. In cinemas later on this week (might as well sneak in a quick plug!), it's the story of a married woman whose hubby divorces her so that they can get their hands on a lovely new apartment.

The bastard refuses to remarry her, however, as was their plan, having already installed another woman in the new flat. Not only that, but he casts aspersions on his poor wife, referring to her as Pan Jinlian, the Chinese equivalent of Madame Bovary.

The wife then spends a good ten years trying to cast off this label. So, what's so bad about being compared to Madame Bovary, then? Come with me back to nineteenth century France, dear readers, and we shall find out...

MADAME BOVARY was the most famous, or should that be infamous, book written by the French novelist Gustave Flaubert. After its publication in the REVUE DE PARIS (1856-7), the author was actually tried for offending public morals, believe it or not.

MADAME BOVARY was seen as an immoral book back then, which seems incredible to modern people who are used to seeing FIFTY SHADES OF GREY rip-offs everywhere they turn in the bookstore of today. For what it's worth, I personally think that MADAME BOVARY is a marvellous book. But who exactly was Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and why is it such an insult to be compared to her...?

Emma Bovary, one of the great creations of modern literature, is the young wife of a French country doctor in the nineteenth century. She marries her husband Charles mainly because she's in a mad rush to escape from the boredom and mundanity of her father's pig farm. All she's really doing, however, is merely exchanging one form of slavery for another.

Buried alive in her husband's country practice (remember that great Australian soap opera from the 'Eighties called A COUNTRY PRACTICE? I used to love that! I had such a crush on the actor Shane Porteous, who played Dr. Terence), Emma is disappointed in her new life right from the start. 

Her husband Charles is boring and married to his work. There's nothing to see and nowhere to go, although the area is surrounded by some of the most beautiful forests you could ever possibly imagine. Emma's not interested in taking solitary walks, though.

Emma craves the bright lights and excitement of nearby cities like Rouens and Paris. Her husband resists all her efforts to get him to move to the city and set up a bustling practice there. Emma is going out of her mind with the boredom and ennui of it all. She made her own bed but now she doesn't want to lie in it. She decides to create her own fun and diversions.

This she does in two ways. Firstly, she has notions way above her station and far beyond the humble means of her hubby's pay-packet as a country quack. She gets herself hopelessly in debt to a local merchant, who slyly encourages her to spend, spend, spend on fine clothes and food and furniture until she owes him a whopping 10,000 francs and can't pay a brass farthing of it.

Rhys Ifans is absolutely magnificent as the obsequious master of flattery and bullshit, the town's merchant and purveyor of fancy goods, Monsieur Lheureux. He looks, sounds and acts the part and, next to Mia Wasikowska herself as Emma, his is completely and utterly the performance of the entire movie. I'd give him an award for it, he's so superlative (and handsome in a big, burly kind of way) in this role.

He's dressed very similarly here to the way he was garbed in that amazing OASIS video from the mid-'Noughties, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING IDLE. He played a rather sardonic dancing undertaker in the video and he was just perfect for the role. He looks so good in this old-fashioned get-up that he'd be brilliant as a Dickens character, a slimy Uriah Heep, maybe.

Anyway, the second and much worse thing that Emma does is to have two adulterous affairs behind her hubby's back. Charles, her husband, however, is undoubtedly the kind of man who was surely born to wear the cuckold's horns. 

He's the kind of movie husband I hate. Timid, shy, lacking in self-confidence, unassuming in bed and won't acknowledge that his wife is having affairs all over town even when the evidence is right in front of his eyes. He's terrified of taking any decisive action in any direction. I hate guys like that, don't you, ladies...? They somehow don't command respect.

I don't really blame Emma, therefore, for seeking comfort and excitement outside the marital bed. On the other hand, these extra-marital doo-hickeys never end well. Look at all the other films/books in which unhappy women feel compelled to have affairs, whether emotional or physical.

Look at ANNA KARENINA, our own RYAN'S DAUGHTER, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE PIANO, THE END OF THE AFFAIR. THE END OF THE AFFAIR? Look at that title right there. It's even trying to tell you how things are going to pan out, for crying out loud! 

Even JANE EYRE, Mia Wasikowska's other big starring role in a period drama, contains elements of infidelity, though this time it's the man's doing. Jane Eyre still gets hurt, though.

MADAME BOVARY especially reminds me of RYAN'S DAUGHTER, Ireland's personal contribution to the canon of movies about adulterous affairs that end heartbreakingly badly for the women involved only. The men are always fine, d'you ever notice that? The married woman at the centre of RYAN'S DAUGHTER is just like Emma, young, pretty and impetuous.

She too couldn't wait to be married to Robert Mitchum's much older- and duller- schoolteacher. But the minute she married him, she started to regret it. Bored and lonely, she was soon in the arms of the first handsome English soldier who happened along. She was tarred and feathered for her little indiscretion by the disgusted townspeople. They took stuff like that really seriously in those days, huh?

Emma Bovary is lucky that the same thing doesn't happen to her, as she runs frantically around the town trying to raise the 10,000 francs she owes Monsieur Lheureux. Even worse than the money situation, however, is the knowledge that her affairs and her lovers, just like her life, have turned out to be a big fat phoney disappointment. Welcome to the real world, Ems darling...!

Also, with three guys 'doing' her on a regular basis, it's a wonder she doesn't get knocked up as well. Must've been shooting blanks, eh...? Yeah, I know, miaow...!

A word about the dresses. They're stunning. Head of Wardrobe deserves an award too. Emma's russet dress and green felt hat ensemble for when she goes hunting (a most distasteful scene, by the way, but there's a disclaimer at the end about no animals having been harmed) is just the most ravishing little outfit. Like Scarlett O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND, she's just 'the cutest little trick in shoe-leather' wearing that outfit. 

Her gold dress and also her purple dress are two of the most lavishly gorgeous gowns I've ever seen in a period piece like this. (Ha ha, I said period!) Who designed these flatteringly form-fitting confections? They're out of this world.

This fabulous and exquisitely-crafted (by a female hand, I might add!) costume drama is out now on special release from KALEIDOSCOPE HOME ENTERTAINMENT in conjunction with FETCH PUBLICITY. 

If you liked Jane Eyre, you'll adore this. It's the story of a woman who challenged societal norms of conformity and moral regularity and came off worst. Don't wait, watch it now. It's simply magnificent.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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