The Sleeping Beauty -- FIlm Review

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TORONTO -- The latest effort from auteur provocateur and Toronto International Film Festival fave Catherine Breillat is a typically dense and visually sumptuous production that's ultimately too opaque to be widely embraced.

Taking its inspiration from the Charles Perreault fairy tale (Perreault's "Blue Beard" informed her previous film), "The Sleeping Beauty" also conjures up "Alice in Wonderland," with its dream-like yarn about a young princess on an enchanted quest.

But after a beguiling once-upon-a-time beginning, complete with dwarfs, abino royalty and marauding gypsies, the charm begins wearing off as the film gets bogged down in more contemporary, uninteresting notions of identity and sexual empowerment, leading to a shoulder-shrugging ending.

Young Carla Besainou is the precocious Anastasia, the little princess in question who avoids a fatal curse by being put under a 100-year sleeping spell that turns out to be anything but uneventful, given her vivid dream life.

After being taken into the home of a woman and her teenaged son, she soon leaves in search of the latter, who has been whisked off by an imposing Snow Queen.

Thanks to Francois-Renaud Labarthe's magical production design and cinematographer Denis Lenoir's stirringly-shot imagery, the film remains lovely to look at up to a point, but by the time the now 16-year-old Anastasia (Julia Artamanov) wakens from her century-old slumber, more than a few audience members will have likely drifted off in the other direction.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production companies: Flach Film/CB Films/Arte France
Cast: Carla Besainou, Julia Artamanov, Kerian Mayan
Director-screenwriter: Catherine Breillat
Producers: Jean-Francois Lepetit, Sylvette Frydman
Director of photography: Denis Lenoir
Production designer: Francois-Renaud Labarthe
Editor: Pascale Chavance
Sales agent: Pyramide International
Not Rated, 82 minutes
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