White as Snow: Eat This, by David Bax
If the title and the apple-centric publicity still didn’t clue you in, Anne Fontaine’s White as Snow is a retelling of the Snow White story. Seeing as the film takes place in something approaching the real world, there’s no literal magic mirror to name Claire (Lou de Laâge) the fairest one of all. Instead, our Evil Queen, Maud (Isabelle Huppert), must herself tell Claire how pretty she is. And she’s not the last to do so. In the first act, multiple women call Claire pretty and it’s not always a compliment. Don’t expect a treatise on the curse of great beauty, though. On the contrary, Fontaine insists that Claire’s looks–as with everything else about her–are hers to do with as she pleases. The haters and fuckboys can choke on their paltry protestations.
White as Snow doesn’t even particularly think it’s a problem that “pretty” is all so many see when they look at Claire. This is still a fairy tale, after all, and she’s not the only character who can be summed up by a single character trait. In fact, when she relocates to a small village after a failed attempt on her life, she befriends a number of men (that number is seven, if you can believe it), each of whom have a shorthand personality (nervous, sickly, gruff, etc.).
Those sorts of broad strokes, in the hand of someone as confident as Fontaine, can work in a comedy. And that’s what White as Snow is, even if one of its best meta-jokes is how far from sunny and frothy it starts out and how quickly it rushes through changes in genre to get there. It goes from erotic drama to kidnapping thriller to captivity horror at breakneck speed and then, once it gets where it’s going, it relaxes. You might even say it indulges in its slow pleasures, a cinematic parallel to the unapologetic hedonism it will soon depict.
You’d want to stop to take in the scenery too if you were Claire. White as Snow takes place in the real French Alps community of La Salette-Fallavaux, which, in the lush cinematography of Yves Angelo, looks exactly like a place where a fairy tale might be set, a mix of bright, verdant forests and soft, ominous fog. It’s almost supernatural. Maybe that’s why people like Claire and Vincent (Vincent Macaigne), a dog-loving musician, visit from the city and then don’t want to leave. But is it a paradise or a refuge?
Whichever it is, it’s not immune to being pierced by Maud. When she shows up again, it’s in a convertible, wearing the country wardrobe of a femme fatale, gloves gripping the steering wheel, dark sunglasses hiding her eyes, scarf whipping in the wind and, to top it all off, lips taking a long, satisfying pull from a vape. In a movie that constantly threatens to spill into fantasy, it’s Huppert (as is often the case) who most stands out as larger than life.
There are a few traits to which you could say the towering Maud boils down (jealousy, denial, etc.) but these are all the symptoms of someone who can’t accept getting older. Thus it becomes clear in the late stages of White as Snow that Claire is meant to represent–to Maud as well as to us–not beauty but youth. And the best way to honor one’s youth, Fontaine says, is to have as much awesome sex as you can.