- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

Revenge is a dish best served cold in “The Page Turner” (“La Tourneuse de pages”).

A wronged child waits until adulthood to get back at the woman who, thoughtlessly but inadvertently, changed the child’s life. When the revenge-seeker goes in for the kill, she’s swift and merciless — “The Page Turner” shows both the wrong and its aftermath in just 85 minutes.

As the film opens, a young Melanie (Julie Richalet) is preparing for a piano examination. Her father tells her not to worry; if she fails, she can always take it again. But the precociously hardheaded child demurs. If she fails, she will give up the instrument for good.

That seems unlikely as Melanie begins her exam. The girl, around 10, clearly has talent. But then one of the judges, a world-famous concert pianist named Ariane (Catherine Frot), finally relents to a persistent autograph-seeker. The distraction throws Melanie off and she cannot recover. She returns home without a word. She takes the bust of a composer off her piano and puts it back in its box. She closes the piano and locks it and finally turns out the light, never, we feel, to sit down before her instrument again.

This scenario may be rather unlikely — that an examination judge would allow such a distraction and that Melanie’s talented playing would not be given a second chance. But, when we see the girl almost a decade later insinuate herself into the pianist’s family, it makes for a promising setup to revenge.

The now grown Melanie (Deborah Francois, “L’enfant”) takes an internship at the law firm of Ariane’s husband (Pascal Greggory from Eric Rohmer’s “Pauline at the Beach”). She soon gains his trust and a job taking care of his son during the holidays.

It’s his wife, however, who really needs the looking after. Ariane has suffered a car accident, which has left her with a debilitating case of stage fright. Melanie is quick to help. She becomes Ariane’s page turner, but really her therapist, as she gives the pianist the confidence to return to the stage.

We know, of course, that Melanie’s good deeds — she also proves an enthusiastic mentor to the son — come with a price. “The Page Turner,” however, doesn’t really become sinister until nearly an hour in, despite how much director Denis Dercourt makes of the fact that Melanie knows her way around a knife, her father being a butcher. It’s also too easy to foresee from the beginning the main form Melanie’s retaliation will take.

It’s hard to feel satisfaction when that long-awaited revenge finally arrives. Ariane turns out to be a much better drawn character than Melanie, whose inner life we’re never privy to. It certainly isn’t the fault of the actress. Miss Francois holds her own among the veterans — even the emotionally taut Miss Frot — and the camera loves her.

With its intriguing premise, inside look at a little-known job and suitably serious soundtrack, “The Page Turner” might have been a compelling film about how one thoughtless moment can change a life — or the lives of an entire family. Instead, it feels like a thriller without the thrills, a character study without the character.

**1/2

TITLE: “The Page Turner” (“La Tourneuse de pages”)

RATING: Not rated (adult themes)

CREDITS: Directed by Denis Dercourt. Written by Mr. Dercourt and Jacques Sotty.

RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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