Sure The Page Turner looks and sounds like an NPR junkie's idea of thrill-crazy hothouse fare, but the title of Denis Dercourt's cold-to-the-touch suspenser nods wittily to the potboiler material and motivations snaking around under its elegant furnishings. Melanie, the 10-year-old daughter of a poor butcher—a tip of the deerstalker, perhaps, to papa Claude Chabrol, whose icy exercises in genre mechanics are the movie's clear antecedent—flubs her one chance at a scholarship when the concert-pianist judge (Catherine Frot as Ariane) disrupts her audition to sign an autograph. Several years later, Ariane, beset by stage fright after a mysterious accident, prepares for her comeback. All she needs is someone to turn her sheet music for the concert—and there, handily enough, is her husband's strangely watchful new teenage intern (Déborah François). Anyone who remembers The Hand That Rocks the Cradle will see the instruments of revenge laid out like cutlery in a slasher movie's kitchen, and Dercourt's overbright visual scheme aims for a Michael Haneke–esque bourgeois chill that comes off instead as curiously bloodless. But the well-chosen classical selections ratchet up the tension—Shostakovich makes a mean Bernard Herrmann—and François, so affecting as the teenage mother of the Dardenne brothers' L'Enfant, proves equally effective as an opaque dose of pretty poison.
Frot (left) fails to recognize the threat of François.
Runs at Varsity, Fri., May 18–Thurs., May 24. Not rated. 85 minutes.