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Single White Wacko

The hand of fate (Tartan Films)

The hand of fate (Tartan Films)

In the flimsy Belgian revenge drama The Page Turner, a pretty little blond girl with thin lips (uh-oh) locks up her piano for good after a judge carelessly signs an autograph while the girl is auditioning for the local music conservatory. Ten abruptly passing years later, a pretty young blond woman, expressionless save for the sinister half-smile playing about her thin lips (uh-oh), is the most efficient intern at a law office headed by, yes indeedy, the judge’s husband (Pascal Greggory), who’s no mean stiff himself. In short order, Mélanie (played by the seraphic Déborah François, who had better things to do as the distraught unmarried mother in the Dardenne brothers’ L’Enfant) wangles a job as live-in nanny to the family’s young son on their opulent summer estate. There, she worms her way into the affections of the judge, Madame Fouchécourt (Catherine Frot), an elegant but highly strung concert pianist (lips thin) whose stage fright is greatly alleviated when the obliging Mélanie doubles up as her page turner.

In his press-kit statement, writer-director Denis Dercourt (who teaches viola and chamber music at the Strasbourg National Conservatory) makes much of the similarities between writing music and writing a movie. I hope the former fares better in his hands, for though The Page Turner clearly aims for ambiguity of meaning, you’d have to be blind, or deaf to the strenuously long-faced score, to miss the signs and portents that keep piling up in this dispiritingly transparent movie, which brandishes its foregone conclusion 20 minutes in. Dercourt throws out broad hints at underlying class conflict and, holding his nose, at lesbian subtext, but you might surmise that a nanny who holds her young charge’s head underwater in the family pool or skewers the foot of an oversexed cellist with his own bow leaves little to audience imagination. Devoid of all mystery, The Page Turner is all answers and no questions, unless it be to wonder, all too timorously, whether the indispensable Mélanie is a genius nipped in the bud or a bona fide wacko from the get-go. For my money, anyone who’d take such extreme umbrage over such a tiny slight is no more than a spoiled brat, and brats can’t carry melodramas.

THE PAGE TURNER | Directed by DENIS DERCOURT | Written by DERCOURT and JACQUES SOTTY | Produced by MICHEL SAINT-JEAN | Released by Tartan Films USA | Sunset 5