The Last Mistress

Rated 3.0

In 1835 Paris, a young man about to be married (Fu’ad Ait Aattou) recounts his scandalous 10-year affair with a Spanish woman (Asia Argento) to the grandmother of his fiancée, assuring the old woman that those days are over forever—but we see what Grandma only hears about, and suspect that he’s indulging in wishful thinking. Writer-director Catherine Breillat (adapting the 19th-century novel by Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly) proves unexpectedly adept at costume drama, and her movie has a certain piquant, aristocratic dignity. At the same time, it’s a tale of a poisonous love-hate obsession, and Breillat isn’t likely to shy away from that; the movie is punctuated (if not exactly spiced) with the angry eroticism that is Breillat’s stock in trade. Performances are subtle and economically drawn.