By
Filmink

22 May 2009 - 11:17 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM

French filmmaker DENIS DERCOURT weaves a glacial, quietly thrilling cinematic web with THE PAGE TURNER. BY FILMINK'S JULIAN WOOD

French Director Denis Dercourt has made a typically French film with The Page Turner, a cruel, clever and beautifully acted drama set within the world of classical music. With icy precision, the film follows a mysterious young woman (Deborah Francois) who insinuates herself into the life of a concert pianist (Catherine Frot)…and then starts to turn the screws. The music-world setting is no accident: “I'm a professional musician myself,” Denis Dercourt says from his home in France. “For twelve years now, I've been a viola teacher at Strasbourg Conservatory. I'm between those two worlds constantly.”

He adds jokingly that he will always have something to fall back on. “Often people make a couple of films and then they fade away,” he laughs. It is unlikely to happen in the case of the sleekly accomplished Dercourt. Did his musical sensibility consciously affect his directing, one wonders. “I work like a musician even in film, especially with my actors,” he replies. “I'm not an intellectual or conceptual director, and I'm not into psychology and the like. I hope the film is like a fugue. It's very musical in terms of getting under the skin like music does. Also when I direct the actors, I may ask them to go a bit louder or to go to a higher pitch with their voice.”

The film is effectively a duet, and the leads – veteran Catherine Frot and relative newcomer Deborah Francois – are both excellent. “Catherine Frot is almost a legend now and she is known for her many comedies,” says Dercourt. “Comedians are the aristocrats of acting. It is just the hardest thing of all and she can do it. But she also has a vulnerability that we tried to use. With Deborah, we were shooting when she was only 18. She was in L'Enfant when she was only 16. She's the only actress who reminds me of a child prodigy in music. Everything she is doing on screen is on purpose and not by chance. She is incredibly gifted.”

The film is terribly cruel in a poised kind of way. FILMINK suggests that the French are very good at “exquisite cruelty.” Dercourt is not offended and laughs heartily at this. “Yes, exactly,” he chuckles. “I agree with you, but the French don't accept that very easily. They're very good at cruelty but they don't want to be! I don't think I'm a cruel guy but you have to be cruel sometimes in art.”