The Page Turner
Turn the Page... And Just Keep Turning

Denis Dercourt, director and co-writer of The Page Turner, had great intentions with this film. After all, in the Spring 2007 FLM: The Voice of Independent Film he writes:

Present the exposition of your themes with elegance and clarity. Develop them with energy but keep the pacing varied. Build to climaxes with a relentless inner logic, then give the audience a brief chance to rest before another theme enters to create new complications. And end with a resounding climax.

After viewing the movie, I cannot find one piece of evidence that this film follows this formula. If Dercourt had successfully followed his self-perceived art, this film would not have taken so long to get release dates and would have made audiences sit up and take notice. As things are, the audience will be fortunate to stay awake and interested.

Deborah Francois as Mélanie in The Page TurnerBefore getting into the technical difficulties, I will offer a short synopsis. Ten-year-old Mélanie Prouvost dreams of becoming a great piano virtuoso and has the full support of her father. She takes the Conservatory entrance exam only to fail due to a rude distraction committed by the chairwoman of the jury who is the very famous and self-absorbed musician Ariane Fouchecourt. Mélanie quits playing the piano and completely walks away from music. Long fade to black. Then, suddenly, Mélanie is all grown up and interning in the office of a lawyer who happens to be married to the rude jury chairwoman of her past. By a series of coincidences Mélanie becomes the nanny for the son of the Fouchecourts and eventually the page-turner for Ariane. The potential for tension is palpable.

The most immediate problem with The Page Turner is the editing. The transitions in time are clumsy and especially long. The time between young Mélanie locking the piano and closing the music room door of her home and twenty-something Mélanie walking into the law firm for her first day of work seemed so long that I at first thought that the black screen indicated a projection problem. There are also continuity problems in costume and staging; they are “little things” like a coat in one scene and a shawl in the next, but they are annoyingly distracting.

The whole premise that this is a film of “class revenge and its psychological translation” (from the press notes) would have made a terrific and energetic movie, but Dercourt never makes it clear that Mélanie pursues the Fouchecourt family. There is no verbal sparring. There is no evidence in the dialogue of intent for revenge or even of feelings about the failed Conservatory exam except for the tears on young Mélanie’s face. There is no development of plot between Mélanie at age ten and Mélanie grown up. Mélanie does fail Ariane at a crucial moment in her professional life, but since there is no indication that Ariane knows who Mélanie is, where is the victory?

The piano music of this film ranges from Schubert to Shostakovich and is absolutely superb. The dialogue in the subtitles runs as contrapuntally poor. There is little use of adjectives and adverbs, descriptive phrases, or colorful language. Yes, we’re talking English subtitles, but I’ve seen many French films that have done magic with subtitled dialogue. Another editing problem raised its ugly head when the position of the subtitles changed and about thirty seconds of dialogue were lost. (Maybe that’s when they explained that Mélanie was out for revenge).

Finally, Catherine Frot and Deborah Francois are beautiful and commanding presences when on the screen and are gorgeous in the movie poster. I look forward to seeing them in something that makes better use of their talents, but will try to forget The Page Turner and move on. The film plods along for an hour and a half and finishes with no “resounding climax.”

The Page Turner is not rated by the MPAA. However, it has no swearing, nudity, or violence. It does have several scenes in which Mélanie and Ariane come close to kissing, and one scene of breast fondling while clothed. This is a French movie with English subtitles that children would not be able to read anyway, and the pace of the film is so slow that no child or teenager would be interested. Save the money and spend it on the soundtrack.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Kathy attended a press screening of The Page Turner.