Catherine Breillat’s fondness for female sexuality-themed provocations makes her Bluebeard an ideal marriage of creator and content, allowing the French director – working in the more placid, refined mode of 2007’s superb The Last Mistress – another opportunity to plumb sex-violence-domination dynamics. Breillat’s film is in fact two separate stories, the first concerning the destitute Marie-Catherine (Lola Créton) and her marriage to the hulking, wealthy lord Bluebeard (Dominique Thomas), and the second a pseudo-framing narrative in which a young girl (Marilou Lopes-Benites) reads the tale of Bluebeard to her frightened older sister (Lola Giovannetti) in a musty attic. In the former, Breillat follows her source material’s basic template but tweaks it in not-inconsiderable ways, turning Marie-Catherine into an active, fearless participant in her betrothal and coloring her journey from penniless single girl to independent bride with shades of ingrained sexist violence (“There are many invasions,” she muses tellingly early on to her sis). Throughout, the patient rhythms and uneasy silence of Breillat’s direction casts a hypnotic spell, turning the ostensibly refined proceedings – in which Bluebeard is less a monster than a pitiful lonely man troubled by his actions – into a moody fantasia of barely repressed compulsions and desire, as epitomized by matching shots of caressing hands hovering over hands. And in a stunning finale, one that finds images of death both fossilized in a loving tableau and materializing out of nowhere, Breillat captures the potent, potentially lethal power of fairy tales.