Toast is one of my favorite food related books ever, because I empathized with Mr. Slater like crazy. Like him I had a mother who could not cook but who I adored nonetheless and like him I lost mine when I was young and was forced to go live with a domineering woman who used food as a weapon. So I was excited, yet hesitant to see the film adaption of the book.
To be honest though, I liked to book so much that no matter what they did in adapting it to film, it wouldn't be good enough for me. But I still recommend this film. I especially recommend the Dusty Springfield heavy soundtrack.
The Countess is exactly the kind of film that Netflix instant was made for. It's not a movie I would ever have rented or bought but since it was on Netflix, I decided to check it out and boy am I glad I did.
This creepy little gem tells the story of a wealthy Hungarian countess in the late 1500's. Her husband is rich and they own more land and have more cash than the king of Hungary, who borrows money from them to finance his war against the Turks. When the count dies, his wife, played brilliantly by Julie Delpy, who directed this film as well, finds a young lover to share her bed with. Turns out the young lover is the son of her cousin, played by William Hurt, whom she spurned in marriage. Hurt wheels and deals and prevents his son from seeing the countess after he learns how deeply Delpy loves him. He marries the kid off and ships him away. Delpy, frightened of aging, has no idea what Hurt did to her and she imagines the kid ran off to be with a younger woman. One day, after her young lover has disappeared, she flies into a rage and she hits one of her servants. Some of the servant girl's blood gets on the countess's face and she imagines that the blood makes her look younger. So the countess begins bleeding the girl and rubbing her blood into her skin to make herself look younger and more attractive. When the first girl dies she and her maids begin bleeding village girls until they die and when the supply of village girls runs out, they conspire to kidnap, bleed, and ultimately murder the virgin daughters of the nobility. It becomes an open secret in the surrounding area that all this is going down but it becomes intolerable when the daughters of the nobles start dying, so the men of the kingdom, led by Hurt, step in.
Or was it all a lie? Hurt wanted the lands and fortune of the countess in the first place but when she spurned his offer of marriage did he plan, scheme, and plot a way to get what he wanted? Did he conspire with the king to rob the countess and make up monstrous lies about the countess so the country and the villagers would turn against her? After all, history is written by the winners, as the film points out.
This film works on many levels. It's about a woman's search for love and youth. It's about how women are roped into being sex objects and forced to stay eternally youthful. It's about how men scheme and plot to deprive women of their rightful possessions and property. It's also about how the rich and powerful force the peasants to do work against their own self interests, or to put it in today's terms, how the 1 percent use the rest of us to do their bidding.
Julie Delpy is fantastic in this film. As the star and the director, she knocks it out of the park. She's in most every scene and even in the scenes where she's bat shit crazy, or is she?, she exudes a steely determination to stay on top and a quiet but smoldering sexual vibe. Age has not lessened or softened Ms. Delpy's beauty, if anything, it's deepened it. She is the perfect actress to have played this role.
This film is a creepy unsettling film, it's not quite horror but it's pretty close. I recommend it highly. It's a gem you don't want to miss.