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The Boston Globe


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Juliette Binoche brings ‘Camille Claudel 1915’ to life

As in his enigmatic 2011 parable “Outside Satan,” writer/director Bruno Dumont seeks beatitude in the midst of despondency, injustice, and derangement. The life of Camille Claudel (portrayed here with punishing conviction by Juliette Binoche) provides him with rich material. A brilliant sculptor and a believer in art as a secular religion, Claudel engaged in a lengthy and doomed collaboration and affair with Rodin that inspired both artists. They split up, and doctors diagnosed her grief and fury as madness. At the request of her family, she was committed in 1914 to Montdevergues Asylum, a victim of a sexist, philistine bourgeoisie.

The early years of psychotherapy have inspired a few films recently, including David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” (2011) and Alice Winocour’s “Augustine” (2013). Like them, “Camille Claudel 1915” points out the sexism of these psychiatric pioneers. But Dumont does not focus on gender power politics and presents Camille’s plight in medias res, with minimal context, the back story filled in by the dialogue and voice-overs of characters, drawn from actual diaries, correspondence, and medical records, sources of varying degrees of reliability.

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