Friday, February 12, 2016

A Mother’s Sorrows- Catherine Deneuve’s In The Name Of My Daughter

A Mother’s Sorrows- Catherine Deneuve’s In The Name Of My Daughter

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell


In The Name Of My Daughter, in French English subtitles, Catherine Deneuve, Guillaume Canet, Adèle Haenel, 2015  

Sometimes stories from real life, like the French film under review In The Name Of My Daughter, about the disappearance and apparent murder of a casino heiress in the 1970s are more baffling than some screenwriter’s fantastic noir-ish detective ideas. What starts out as a rather crude power-play for Madame Le Roux’s casino in the casino wars of the 1970s on the French Rivera by Mafia-connected figures leads to the death of her daughter, probably murdered by a feckless lover, or had been done by parties unknown on his orders. There is in the end just enough doubt about whether the lover was involved with the disappearance to keep this reviewer still scratching his head over the matter. The director of the film has been quoted as saying that he stayed rather close to the real story line as it unfolded over a thirty years period to only add to that feeling about the story line.          

Here is how it played out. French Rivera casino-owner Renee Le Roux (played by Catherine Deneuve whose name was last seen by this reviewer on a river cruise boat on the Seine in Paris and while I admired her films when she was young I did not realize then that she was still alive) was being squeezed out by Mafia-connected men who want to consolidate their hold on the lucrative high-end gambling business there. Madame Le Roux was able to hold out for a while with votes of her adult daughter Agnes and her lawyer/advisor Maurice. Then thing start to go awry. Agnes, unhappy over a failed marriage, seeking some independent from overbearing Mom and seeking her inheritance due her from her late father’s estate, and Maurice, squeezed out by Madame from running the casino become hot, passionate lovers, and with that as a factor decided to side with the Mafia-types in their takeover. The prize for Agnes-the equivalent of her expected inheritance-for Maurice-access to serious dough from a joint account set up by Agnes with him which he never had as a struggling lawyer. Needless to say this betrayal by daughter and advisor put a serious strain on that mother-daughter relationship.

But that is where the “in the name of my daughter” of the title (English title) comes in. All was not well in the Agnes-Maurice relationship for he was a philanderer and she rather than being the independent athletic young woman of the earlier part of the film turned out to be extremely needy. Maurice balked, as was to be expected when she started to make plans for their future, and this indifference led Agnes into doing many rash acts-including a suicide attempt. Maurice still balked. Then one day Agnes was gone from her apartment never to be seen again. A few months later Maurice under the financial arrangements they had worked out in sunnier times, has all of Agnes’ assets transferred to his account and he left for Panama.

Something was certainly wrong with turn of events and Madame Le Roux started what would be a determined, a very focused attempt using all her dwindling resources to have Maurice tried for murder. A lot of things didn’t add up in the French justice system, a system different from the English common law traditions we are more familiar with as allowable circumstantial evidence since no body was found, statements made, guilt and such but Renee did get her day in court. Maurice too, although at the end of the film he was found not guilty. As the credits began to roll we find that he was later found guilty (what about double jeopardy) and is now serving a twenty year sentence for the murder of Agnes. Like I said real life has plenty of twists in it, plenty.                   

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