Saturday, August 17

Special Engagements Archive



Fri, Aug 16 – Sun, Aug 18

1951 • dir Jacqueline Audry w/Edwige Feuillère, Simone Simon, Marie-Claire Olivia • 96 min • DCP

OLIVIA is a remarkable work by one of France’s first ground-breaking female filmmakers, starring two legendary actresses in deliciously decadent roles, which easily merits rediscovery today after being neglected for almost 70 years.

Plunging the viewer – and the young title character – into a true lion’s den, director Jacqueline Audry depicts a 19th-century boarding school for girls. The school is divided into two camps where all shots, even the most underhanded, seem allowed. That’s because the two mistresses of the house, Miss Julie (Feuillère) and Miss Cara (Simon), are engaged in a competition for the affections of their students, arousing passion, hatred and unexpected reversals of loyalties. Audry passes no judgment on her characters but instead explores the students’ discovery of love and attraction and the awakening of their senses. And, though she does not address lesbian desire directly, the implication is not far from the surface. Only the two temptresses, Julie and Cara, are presented as manipulative, and power seems to animate them as much as any suppressed carnality.

Shutting away its young actresses in a somber, gothic space, reminiscent of Manderley in Hitchcock’s Rebecca, OLIVIA instills a mood of strangeness that borders on the fantastic. The director creates a world almost without men, and those that do appear show no interest in what is actually happening at the school. For France at that time, when homosexuality was still largely considered deviant, Audrey has made a unique and fundamentally feminist film that is a delight on the screen.

“Audry was as transgressive as many of her heroines, a woman forced to struggle for her own recognition. Olivia has a lasting power.”
– Eloise Ross, Senses of Cinema

“Olivia is a rare film in every sense—beautiful, precious, secret.”
– Camille Nevers, Libération

“A compound of velvet innuendos—polite, discreet and finely wrought.”
– Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

“Hothouse lesbian passion in an upper class French girls’ school.”
– Vito Russo, “The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies”

Ticket Information:

Click a showtime to purchase tickets:

Friday 8/16
at 3:00, 5:00, 7:00 PM
Saturday 8/17
at 5:00, 7:00 PM
Sunday 8/18
at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00 PM

Brattle passes accepted. Special, Usher, and Producer members may reserve seats in advance [instructions]. Regular & Dual Members may redeem passes at the box office pending availability.