Alice Winocour’s sweetly fevered Belle Époque based-on-fact sexual-coming-of-age tale “Augustine” matches a nineteen-year-old kitchen maid with seizures (Soko) with a neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon) who grows fixated with the physical pleasure that accompanies the sensuous young woman’s “hysteria.” Augustine is readily hypnotized, leading to public demonstrations of her fantastic fits as Charcot works through the era’s primitive notions of female madness. The characters—and the actors—make an intense pair: their intimacy is daunting. Soko’s expressiveness, physically and facially, is extraordinary. There are similarities in subject matter, especially about notions of transference, to David Cronenberg’s chillier “A Dangerous Method,” but Winocour capably finds the tone for her historical musings without lurching toward lecture or rising to the level of pamphlet. Plus, Augustine’s eventual assumption of power in the relationship is keenly conveyed. The effective score is by Jocelyn Pook (“Eyes Wide Shut”), aided by a superb placement of Arvo Pärt’s “Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten.” With Chiara Mastroianni, Olivier Rabourdin, Roxane Duran. 101m. (Ray Pride)
“Augustine” opens Friday at the Music Box. The trailer is below.