The Page Turner
The old joanna is getting a bad rep these days. Ever since Jane Campion sexed up piano practice in The Piano it's been the classical instrument of choice for discerning art-house snobs. It went through the Nazi occupation in Roman Polanski's The Pianist, then suffered the outrageous depravities of Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher (imagine what a different film that might have been if Isabelle Huppert had taught the tuba instead).
In Denis Dercourt's classy suspense film the piano is a Trojan Horse for the revenge of a music student, Mélanie (Deborah Francois), on the haughty examiner who failed her as a teenager - a rejection which spurred young Mélanie to give up her dreams of playing, and for which Ariane (Catherine Frot) will never be forgiven.
As motivation goes this makes a change from rape and murder, though even as a failed piano student myself I never believed it for a moment. Admittedly it's ambiguous whether Mélanie really means serious harm to the older woman - but only if you believe it's pure coincidence that she should volunteer for a post as live-in nanny to Ariane's son, then insinuate herself as the neurotic pianist's page turner on the eve of her comeback concert, and never once reveal that they've met before.
Still, this kind of thriller invites you to play along for the fun of it, and in its cruel, misanthropic way it plays very fair. As Mélanie, Deborah Francois is perfectly composed, the very picture of demure passive aggression and completely unrecognisable as the teenage mother from The Child. Her devious scheme to even the score is refreshingly deft, if not a little daft.
The soundtrack features elegant interludes by Bach, Shostakovich and Schubert, expertly chosen by Dercourt no doubt - apparently he only moonlights as a moviemaker. He's actually a professional viola player and a teacher at the conservatoire.