Oscar®-winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) and the luminous Sandrine Bonnaire (La Cérémonie) square off in this stylish and sophisticated dramedy of newfound passions and mid-life triumphs, set on the postcard-perfect isle of Corsica.
Lovely, repressed and quietly intelligent, French chambermaid Hélène (Bonnaire) comes upon a couple (The L Word‘s Jennifer Beals and Marie Antoinette‘s Dominic Gould) engaged in an intensely sensual chess match, and discovers she has a knack for the game. This obsession much to the chagrin of her husband and teenaged daughter leads her to seek the clandestine tutelage of a reclusive American doctor (Kline, in his first French-speaking role) a liaison that radically transforms both of their lackluster lives. Based on Bertina Henrichs acclaimed novel La Joueuse d<'>echec (The Chess Player, Queen to Play is the auspicious feature film debut of French director and screenwriter Caroline Bottaro.
– Beautiful high-definition transfer, enhanced for widescreen viewing
– Joueuse, Le Making of: A 20-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, featuring interviews with actors Kevin Kline, Sandrine Bonnaire, Jennifer Beals and director Caroline Bottaro
– U.S. theatrical trailerA sun-washed but pleasingly cerebral tale of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, Caroline Bottaro’s Queen to Play uses chess as its vehicle for a heroine’s taking wing. Yes, that’s right, chess: and those of you rolling your eyes at the idea that the slow-moving brain-game might be a dynamic agent of change are in for a nice surprise. Chess is somehow just right for the wonderful Sandrine Bonnaire, grave-faced star of many a serious French film (Vagabond, Monsieur Hire). Bonnaire plays a chambermaid living with her family on the Corsican coast; while cleaning the rooms of glamorous types, she becomes intrigued by a couple playing chess in seemingly intimate circumstances (the cameo by Jennifer Beals in these scenes is one of the film’s only missteps). The maid’s new enthusiasm–let’s call it an obsession, actually–with the game leads her to unexpected mastery of it, a development that doesn’t sit well with her blue-collar, traditional husband (Francis Renaud). Chess also brings her to the attention of an expat widower (Kevin Kline, executing his French dialogue with his usual precise aplomb), a picky fellow intrigued by this earnest woman who showed up to dust his shelves and now sits across from him at his chessboard. The movie’s various evolutions may be a little too neat overall, but there’s something about the solemnity of chess and the grounded-in-the-real-world demeanor of Sandrine Bonnaire that makes it all very gratifying to watch. She’s not a pawn in anybody’s game. –Robert Horton
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