'The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de Pages'), from French director Denis Dercourt, is a very chilly, very subtle and very stylised psychological thriller set in the world of classical music. It's an old-fashioned two-hander based around solid performances from two actresses - Déborah François, who made waves last year with her performance in the Palme d'Or-winning 'L'Enfant', and Catherine Frot, who had a starring role in 2003's 'Trilogy'.
François plays a serious young woman called Mélanie who, as a child (played by Richalet) was an obsessive and dedicated pianist. An attempt as a 10-year-old to pass the Conservatory entrance exam came to naught when her concentration was disrupted by Ariane Fouchécourt (Frot), a famous concert pianist on the examination board, signing an autograph during her audition. Mélanie put the piano firmly behind her and, when we first meet her grown-up self, she is starting work as an intern with a law company. When her boss (Greggory) needs someone to take care of his son during the November holidays, she volunteers, and we discover that he is married to Ariane, who is now trying to regain her confidence in live performance.
With M Fouchécourt having to work, Mélanie is isolated with Ariane and her son, Tristan (Martynciow), another talented pianist, in their large, rambling house in the countryside. As Mélanie insinuates herself into the Fouchécourt family, she becomes increasingly indispensable, especially when Ariane discovers that she can read music and recruits her as her page turner for a series of important concerts.
'The Page Turner' is a true example of the old adage, "revenge is a dish best served cold" - Mélanie is a cool and precise character, no gesture, movement or event unplanned. Her unknowing enemy, the brittle Ariane, is only a little warmer than her nemesis although she does thaw out, particularly in the last third of the film. Dercourt echoes this froideur in the cool lighting and colours he uses throughout the film, using many delicate but effective little touches to ratchet up tension levels.
Unfortunately the end result does not quite justify the means and Dercourt's restrained style ultimately frustrates. 'The Page Turner' is beautifully made but rather unsatisfying.