The horrific bedtime story of Bluebeard is so ready for feminist subversion that news of Catherine Breillat’s tackling it almost arrives as something of a punchline. Often read to girls at an early age, this cautionary tale, about the ogre-ish nobleman who turns out to be a serial wife-killer, becomes fertile ground for exploring the seeds of Western sexual politics—recall the interlude in Jane Campion’s The Piano in which a stage production of the story, acted in frightening silhouette, causes shocked Aboriginal audience members to brutally retaliate, while the whites look on unashamed. At its core a disturbingly instructive narrative about the importance of trust within male-female relations, the tale of the nefarious Bluebeard ultimately lays the blame for violence at the wife’s feet—if only she hadn’t unlocked that one forbidden room the poor heroine could have saved her sweet neck. It’s not just a matter of curiosity killing the cat but also of the woman not fulfilling her nuptial duties; regardless of her husband’s barbarism, it’s unlikely that murder would have befallen her if she had done as he asked. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Bluebeard.
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