Pete Doherty gets his thesp-on with this luxuriant literary adaptation which is nowhere near as bad as early reports would suggest.
There's a unique paradox to being a rock star who turns to acting. You can be up there on stage in front of hundreds, thousands of people, and everything you do and say has an entire audience utterly rapt, transfixed, spellbound. Reason would dictate that this ineffable magnetism and charisma would simply cut and paste directly onto film, but more often that not, it's a case of square rock 'n' roll peg not fitting into the shiny round hole that is cinema.
For examples of this you have to look no further than David Bowie, the gender-fluid godhead of screen non-acting. And just in the middle distance you can see Bob Dylan. And is that Sting waving up on the horizon? There are, of course, exceptions (Tom Waits and Kris Kristofferson being the most notable), but it's sad for us to report that one-time Libertines co-front-man, Pete Doherty, is not an exception. No. No way.
And yet there's something strangely intoxicating about his 'performance' in Sylvie Verheyde's ultra languorous Confession Of A Child Of The Century, which is adapted from the novel by nineteenth century French dramatist, Alfred de Musset. As Octave, a libertine (geddit!) and bounder who attempts to give his life over to sincere monogamous love, Doherty skulks and shuffles around the frame, mumbling his dialogue like he's embarrassed of the camera, or that his braying mother is just out of shot and insisting he perform for "all these nice people". If this were a Manoel de Oliveira film, no-one would bat an eyelid.
Were Doherty not in the film, it would lose that art-imitating-life depth which it neatly acquires from its star's nefarious extra-curricular activities, even if he's been out of the headlines for quite a while now. Otherwise – contrary to the horrific reports that surfaced following its Cannes 2012 premiere – it's a satisfyingly luxuriant production with Verheyde's gauze-cam beautifully capturing the smoky interiors and windswept exteriors. And the relationship he strikes up with Charlotte Gainsborough's mousy and recently bereaved country widow is convincingly, even movingly wrought.
One particularly innovative sex scene sees Octave being psychologically bombarded by his past encounters. Even the atmospheric travelling scenes have some great moments, such as when horses dash across an dew-dappled moor as seen through a carriage window.
However it really runs out of steam in its final act, as Verheyde drags the tale to a not particularly exciting conclusion and then attempts to wring the melodrama from it by having the characters repeat all their dialogue over and over. What's more, Doherty's technical deficiencies are emphasised hugely as he is required to so undertake some emotional lifting that his tiny actory shoulders just can't bear.
But this is less of an all-out disaster than it is a curiously misshapen oddity that largely succeeds in achieving its thematic and stylistic aims.
It got an absolute mauling when it premiered at Cannes in 2012.
Doherty's acting is eccentric and technically lacking, but he still makes for a interesting screen presence.
Few beyond Doherty die-hards are going to need a second viewing.