Isabelle Huppert is the Evil Queen. Lou de Laâge is Snow White. Sort of.



Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a girl in trouble.  No, not that kind of trouble.  This girl- young lady, really- has been targeted for disappearance by her evil stepmother.    And so innocent and kind is her heart, she doesn’t suspect a thing.


It’s modern-day France, and Claire is going about her day tidying and tending to her stepmother Maud’s (Isabelle Huppert) luxury hotel.  When she catches the eye- and heart- of a stately older man that Maud had digs on, deadly jealousy rushes in.  One look in the mirror shows that time is taking its toll on Maud, leaving Claire the fairer of the two.

One abrupt abduction later, Claire finds herself stranded alone in the forest.  More trouble ensues, resulting in her waking up in a strange cottage.  A terse man comes in demanding answers, none of which she remotely has.  Nor does she any longer have the sweatpants she was wearing when she was so rudely kidnapped in the first place.  The guy has them, in his washing machine, being washed.  He rescued her from another dangerous situation in the woods.  He couldn’t help himself, he’s good at heart.  But he and his two housemates are living on the downlow and intend to stay that way.  Off the grid and all that…

Time passes.  Claire decides that this life beats her former workaday existence at the hotel.  She finds a job in a quaint restaurant, and meets a few more nice guys there.  All in all, there are seven.  Nature seems to be her friend; music is in her heart.  She even starts visiting a local church.  She feels the need to confess that she’s been having sex with most of the new men in her life.  And she likes it. 

But then, by this point in Anne Fontaine’s White as Snow (Blanche comme neige), we definitely know that.  The film is every bit the contemporary mature reimagining of Snow White that it presents as, right down to the poisonous apple.  Fontaine wisely imbued the film with an overarching fairy tale otherworldliness in mood and atmosphere while avoiding overt magical realism.  In other words, by design, White as Snow feels like something out of a storybook- but not quite.  Maud, though terribly vain, is no supernatural witch.  There are no bubbling cauldrons, grabby trees, or gruesome transformations.  Even the ending maintains a real-world conceit.

It seems like most folks don’t like White as Snow, though I’m not sure why.  Yes, details and motivations in the story are vague and/or scarce, but not only is that life, that’s Snow White– not just the classic Disney version, but the Grimm’s 1812 source material.  Fontaine reaches into both Uncle Walt’s animated passion project and the original Sneewittchen for inspiration.  Her treatment of the Snow White tale is to the previous versions what the Smallville television series was to old Superboy comic books: a reverent but far more grounded take on very familiar material. 

What White as Snow really brings to the table, aside from a charmingly potent star turn by Lou de Laâge as Claire and the expected accomplished turn by Huppert as Maud, is a female-centered take on sex-positivity.  Some may recoil at the fact that it’s through sexual expression that Claire truly comes into her own as an individual, but it is her narrative all the while.  Much like Miriam Hopkins in Lubitsch’s polyamorous Design for Living, she finds that she is no gentleman.  

Claire’s newfound lifestyle even gets the blessing of the local priest, though Maud represents the older generation’s unwillingness to step aside, insistence to maintain power (in this case, over the man from the hotel that Claire doesn’t even care about), and finally destroy the youth if they feel they must.  The movie is certainly sexy, and maintains an ethereal looseness that is fitting and to its benefit.

Cohen Media Group has released White as Snow on Blu-ray and DVD with English language subtitles and 5.1 and 2.0 audio mixes.  The only bonus feature is the film’s trailer.  As is expected of a film from only a few years ago, the transfer is vibrant and clean.  The soundtrack subtly resonates with the murmuring musical score of Bruno Coulais. 

For those willing to venture into the mists of libidinous German fairy tale retellings that are somehow appropriately in French, White as Snow comes recommended.  The ever after of it all will leave fans of de Laâge and Huppert happy enough.