Written in French with English subtitles and directed by Catherine Breillat, "The Last Mistress" is a seeming period piece in which 19th century courtesan La Vellini (Argento) is so passionate about her profession that she almost devours her prey. In particular, beautiful young lover Ryno de Marigny (Fu'ad Ait Aattou), the blood of whom she literally slurps down as an annoyed doctor is trying to remove a bullet after a duel which she instigated. Told often in flashback, the story of Ryno and La Vellini opens on the eve of his marriage to wealthy, pretty but prim aristocrat Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida).
A known Lothario, the groom-to-be is getting the once-over from his intended's grandmother, Marquise de Flers (Claude Sarraute). Becoming absorbed in a cushiony chair, her glass of wine and Ryno's sex-filled opus, the Marquise delights in each lurid detail. Far from disapproval, she appears to okay the youth's ongoing trysts with the predatory La Vellini, even after the marriage. After all, this is France.
However, the vampirish mistress does not get the green light from Hermangarde. Pregnant, the distressed newlywed rides into the night to spy on her husband entwined in Kama Sutra copulation combinations. The stressful ordeal results in a miscarriage.
Does this tragedy stop the unholy alliance? Of course, not. After all, this is France.
Courtesy of designer François- Renaud Labarthe, the sumptuous production is truly a feast for the eye. Never has decadence looked as inviting.
An upcoming major actress, Argento, with her bent nose and crooked teeth, defies the accepted concept of movie star as she burns up the screen growling and scowling during moments of heightened pleasure.
The film never comes to any definite conclusion. It simply ends with two old gossips, the Comtesse d'Artelles (Yolande Moreau) and the Vicomte de Prony (Michael Lonsdale), discussing the adulterous, inevitable, ongoing lives of the young lovers and the wealthy wife.
After all, this is France.