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The Last Mistress (2007)

Une vieille maîtresse (original title)
Unrated | | Drama, Romance | 18 July 2008 (USA)
1:43 | Trailer

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Secrets, rumors and betrayals surround the upcoming marriage between a young dissolute man and virtuous woman of the French aristocracy.


Catherine Breillat


Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly (novel), Catherine Breillat (adaptation)
2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Asia Argento ... Vellini
Fu'ad Aït Aattou Fu'ad Aït Aattou ... Ryno de Marigny
Roxane Mesquida ... Hermangarde
Claude Sarraute Claude Sarraute ... La marquise de Flers
Yolande Moreau ... La comtesse d'Artelles
Michael Lonsdale ... Le vicomte de Prony
Anne Parillaud ... Mme de Solcy
Jean-Philippe Tesse Jean-Philippe Tesse ... Le vicomte de Mareuil
Sarah Pratt Sarah Pratt ... La comtesse de Mendoze
Amira Casar ... Mademoiselle Divine des Airelles
Lio ... La chanteuse
Isabelle Renauld ... L'arrogante
Léa Seydoux ... Oliva
Nicholas Hawtrey Nicholas Hawtrey ... Sir Reginald
Caroline Ducey ... La dame de Pique


At 30, boyish penniless aristocrat Ryno de Marigny has separated from Villini, a passionate Spaniard and his mistress of 10 years. He's now in love with Hermangarde, a young, wealthy, and titled virgin. Days before the wedding, the bride's grandmother sits Ryno down and insists on knowing if his affair is over. He relates a story of passion, which we see in flashbacks, swearing he loves only Hermangarde. After the wedding, the couple moves to a castle by the sea. And Villini? Can passion survive disgust and self-loathing? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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France | Italy



Release Date:

18 July 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Last Mistress See more »


Box Office


$6,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$33,554, 29 June 2008, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$785,037, 5 October 2008
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Catherine Breillat discovered Fu'ad Aït Aattou in a Paris café. See more »


While Ryno is descending the stairs at the opera, an Edgar Degas mural can be seen. Degas would have only just been born in this era. See more »


Featured in Metropolis: Cannes 2007 - Special (2007) See more »


The Plaint
By Henry Purcell
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Twisting conventions in high style
5 October 2007 | by Chris KnippSee all my reviews

Breillat's films are mostly small budget contemporary provocations with a feminist bent. This one, her twelfth, she says cost as much as ten previous ones and is a costume drama based on a controversial novel by Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly (1808-1889). This is a bit confusing: the film begins by saying it's the century of Choderlos de Laclos (author of Dangerous Liaisons). but his famous work was written in 1782, and the action of d'Aurevilly's novel is set in 1835. The point is, the story is about the French aristocracy, and in the early nineteenth century its members still believed in and lived by the libertinism of Laclos.

In fact The Last Mistress (Une vieille maitresse) is a transitional story that links the two centuries and in a sense presents a romantic conception of the eighteenth century. Ryno de Marigny (beautiful newcomer Fu'ad Ait Aattou) is a high born young man who has squandered his wealth on his Spanish mistress, the willful Vellini (Asia Argento, in her element), with whom he's been involved for ten years. Allocine calls Ryno "a kind of romantic Valmont." But that's just it: there was nothing romantic about de Laclos' cruel and manipulative Valmont and Ryno is a new post-eighteenth-century conception of the eighteenth-century libertine that is titillated by his freedom but adds the emotional dressing of romantic passion. Breillat obviously loves this combination, is at home with it, and has given it deliriously appropriate treatment in this minor but beautiful, lush, and thoroughly enjoyable film.

The Breillat touch is perhaps most visible in the love-making scenes between Vellini and Ryno, in which there is much nudity and specificity of physical detail. Fu'ad Ait Aattou has pale skin and bigger lips than Asia Argento. By intention, both are androgynous; this is Breillat's conception of Choderlos de Laclos's and d'Aurevilly's libertines. The two actors are perfectly matched for this. Vellini is the aggressor; it is she who makes love with Ryno, using him like a lovely male statue made of alabaster. He is passionate like a romantic lover, however: that is, he's hung up on her forever, no matter what he tries. Early on, he fights a duel with her English husband and is wounded in the shoulder. The sex sequences are specific and fleshy as in no other costume drama, but Breillat is not creating an anachronistic work. As she explained in the NYFF press Q&A, she is passionate about the quality of her period detail and bought tons of lush materials and costumes. The dress, the jewelry, and the interiors are all completely authentic, and there is a rich color scheme in which red and green and yellow predominate. Without seeming over-glossy (it's not eye-candy like Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette), The Last Mistress is a pleasure to look at. It's also a pleasure to listen to, with its choice use of ornate and witty language. Oldtimer Michael Lonsdale as the gossipy Le vicomte de Prony particularly relishes his well-turned phrases.

As the story gets under way, Ryno has now found a wife, the beautiful young blonde noblewoman Hermangarde (Breillat regular Roxane Mesquida), and he's in love with her, and tired of Villini. Hermangarde's grandmother, the Marquise de Flers (non-actress Claude Sarraute, daughter of novelist Nathalie) is responsible for vetting Ryno, and in a lengthy sequence that's the heart of the film, he confesses to her everything about his relationship with Vellini. After much has been told (and shown on screen) in an amusing moment we see the Marquise reclining low in her seat: she is exhausted, but entranced. She wants to hear every detail. The Marquise is of course, of the older generation--a real Choderlos de Laclos lady. For her, the information that Ryno is a true libertine is proof that he is reliable, not an unknown quantity. And the cards are on the table. He'll do.

Rybno has every intention of having done with Vellini, and in a scene we've observed before his confession, he's made love with her one last time and they've said their adieus and adioses. Afrter his marriage, which we don't see, Ryno and Hermangarde live in a castle by the sea--so that he can avoid the temptations of Paris. Velllini waits four months, and then she appears. And once she is in front of Ryno, despite his professions of being fed up with her, he can't resist her.

There are several scenes in which Vellini draws blood from Ryno and licks it up: hints or Ms. Argento's father's films? Part of the New York Film Festival 2007. Three years after a stroke, Breillat is clearly in fine form--never better--and this is a long-awaited (by her) labor of love.

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