The Triumph Of Love

The French have a word, "marivaudage," for fast-paced, flirtatious, witty banter. It comes from "Marivaux," the last name of the 18th-century playwright, essayist, and novelist whose theatrical comedies offered marivaudage by the hour. To this day, only Molière's plays are revived more frequently, but until recently, film has neglected Marivaux. Benôit Jacquot's adaptation of The False Servant might change that, but The Triumph Of Love, a high-spirited but clumsily staged adaptation from director Clare Peploe, seems unlikely to spark an interest. An Italian/British co-production shot in English, Love stars Mira Sorvino as a princess with a conscience, seeking to right the wrong that brought her into power by marrying the rightful heir to the throne her father usurped. Her would-be lover is a handsome young man (Jay Rodan), which should make her work easier. But he lives in a country retreat guarded by Ben Kingsley, which does not. A philosopher committed to a rationalism that precludes emotion, Kingsley has raised Rodan with a fierce distrust of women in general and Sorvino in particular, making the tools of farce the princess' best means to infiltrate his compound. Donning male clothes, Sorvino sets about seducing not just Rodan, but also Kingsley and his similarly repressed sister (Fiona Shaw), stirring long-dormant emotions that quickly spin out of control. Lumbering when it should sprint, Peploe's Triumph struggles against obvious budgetary constraints and the usual problems of theatrical adaptations, seldom making a virtue of either. Shaw and Kingsley both create crisp, comic performances, but Sorvino remains a problem throughout. Her physical transformation falls short of the Boys Don't Cry standard, to put it mildly. And even in the most convincing male drag, Sorvino would burst the bubble of illusion, thanks to her decision to convey masculinity by shouting all her lines. The strength of Marivaux's material pokes through, but not often enough. In a sporadically implemented postmodern touch, Peploe occasionally cuts to shots of an audience watching the proceedings, and their stone-faced expressions seem all too appropriate.

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