Augustine is the second movie in the past three years to deal with the long-discredited disease referred to as “female hysteria” – used as the go-to diagnosis for many mental and physical health problems suffered by women in the 18th and 19th centuries.
But unlike Tanya Wexler’s 2011 British period rom-com Hysteria, and its take on this dismal period of Western medicine, director Alice Winocour’s French drama dwells on the victimized psyche of the 19-year-old title character Augustine in the 1890s.
French singer-turned actress Soko plays the young maid, who suffers a major seizure while serving dinner to her employers. After being sent to an oppressive women’s hospital, Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon) begins to study Augustine’s fits – many of which seem to erotic to the casual male witness.
Badly in need of funding, Charcot decides to use Augustine and her malady for staged performances under the guise of serious medical lectures – and their side shows undoubtedly lead to complications.
The obscene ridiculousness of Victorian-age medicine is tapped for many laughable moments in Hysteria, but few can be found in Augustine – a film both dark in tone and in visual composition. The chiaroscuro style used by cinematographer Georges Lechaptois is perfect for Winocour’s summation of this Dark Age for women’s health care and basic human rights.
Augustine plays at St. Anthony Main Theater today at 4:45 p.m. and on April 19 at 4:20 p.m.
Other Highlights: Sunday, April 14
Disconnect. Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard star in a tense ensemble drama about people’s use of modern technology – and the dark side of the connectivity it provides. (7 p.m.)
Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse. This documentary highlights the life of homeless Portland resident James Chasse, and his brutal death at the hands of police. (6:45 p.m.; also showing April 16 at 6:45 p.m.)
MN-Made Short Documentaries. This diverse collection of five shorts includes a look at the life of a pig from birth to consumption, a LGBT Twin Cities teen seeking direction in his chaotic life, and a glance at Medicine Lake in winter. (4 p.m.)
Throughout the entirety of the 2013 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, we’ll be spotlighting one notable movie each day, along with other notable screenings. To see the WCCO Movie Blog’s complete coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.