City of Lights/ City of Angels – COLCOA Film Festival
Singer/Actress Soko (Stéphanie Sokolinski) plays the title character in Augustine (2013), a young woman at the center of a mystery. Set during France’s Belle Époch, Augustine is a kitchen maid who suffers a violent seizure and becomes partially paralyzed. Famed neurologist Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon) arrives to find out what’s causing her increasingly bizarre behavior.
Comparisons can be made to The Exorcist (1973), another case with sexual overtones that has a young girl at the center. In Augustine, the cause and proposed cure are scientific rather than religious. Is Augustine faking her illness and if so, to what end? That’s what Professor Charcot is determined to find out. At the Q&A, I asked a considerably slimmed down Soko if director Alice Winocour had her gain weight for the role. It was quite the contrary though Winocour was ultimately pleased when viewers commented that Soko “looked like a painting.” It’s unusual to find a plus-size temptress in a contemporary film. In this case, it seems true to the period and adds to Augustine’s corset-bursting sensuality. The film also demonstrates the vulnerability of women at the time, when being labeled an “hysteric” could mark someone for life.
Agustine is in limited release by Music Box Films.