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In the psychosexual drama Augustine, based on a true story, the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot describes the titular character as “a magnificent patient.” It’s the late 19th century in Paris, and Augustine (French singer Soko) is a 19-year-old kitchen maid suddenly struck by a seizure that leaves her partially paralyzed. Placed under the care of the stony and mercurial Charcot (Vincent Lindon), she’s diagnosed with “ovarian hysteria.” When Charcot refers to her frozen-shut right eye, he calls it her “hysterical wink.” But what makes Augustine so magnificent, in Charcot’s eyes, is her willingness—intentional or not—to experience a hysterical bout when placed under hypnosis. It’s this quality that leads him to trot her around lecture halls like a prize cow, showing how, “as with all hysterics, this patient defies the laws of anatomy.” Unfortunately, the debut feature from writer-director Alice Winocour ignores some basic laws of cinema. The narrative is as oblique as the cinematography is shadowy, and the pacing is glacial. Soko gives a focused performance, but Winocour provides so little backstory that the character becomes little more than a cipher. Charcot’s pet monkey occasionally provides some energy—and figures into a bizarre flirtation sequence—but this is a medical drama too clinical to engage either emotionally or intellectually. Charcot puts it best: “Experiments performed on animals work better in a lab than with an audience.”

Special Note

Living Room Theaters
  • Genres: Drama
  • Running Time: 101 minutes
  • Release Date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
  • Country: France
  • Language: French (Canada)
  • Critic's Score: C+
  • Starring: Chiara Mastroianni [Constance Charcot], Olivier Rabourdin [Bourneville], Vincent Lindon [Jean-Martin Charcot], Grégoire Colin [Verdan], Roxane Duran [Rosalie], Soko [Augustine], Sophie Cattani [Blanche], Ange Ruzé [Pierre], Audrey Bonnet [Aimée]
  • Directed by: Alice Winocour [Director], Alice Winocour [Screenwriter], Isabelle Madelaine [Producer], Emilie Tisné [Producer], Jocelyn Pook [Original Music], Georges Lechaptois [Cinematographer], Julien Lacheray [Film Editor], Karen Hottois [Casting], Nicolas Ronchi [Casting], Arnaud de Moleron [Production Design], Arnaud de Moleron [Art Director], Pascaline Chavanne [Costume Designer]
  • Watch the trailer

Show Times

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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