Catherine Breillat’s period drama is a thoughtful, ribald, saucy little entry in the career of one of the best French directors in existence. Asia Argento stars as the title character, Vellini, a half Italian courtesan in Paris who first frustrates, then bewitches and ultimately seduces the young Ryno (Fu’ad Ait Aattou), who first describes her as a “mutt” and is soon cheating on his wife with her. The film is slick and well-made, and surprisingly involving, taking Jules-Amedee Barbey d’Aurevilly’s novel as its source material. Breillat (“Romance,” “Fat Girl”) has made an adult drama with real verve!

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