Queen To Play offers typical French cinema with some great performances. The relationship-based narrative of Queen To Play is really like a genre in French cinema, talky semi-romance with thoughtful photography and great performances.

A younger woman, working class (Sandrine Bonnaire somehow looking not beautiful) and at odds with her brutish husband discovers an interest in chess. QTP moves Bonnaire like a power piece in a strategic move that finds her providing maid service for a grumpy professor with his own penchant for the classic board game (Kevin Kline).

I don’t speak French well enough or at all to grasp whether Kline has a good French accent but it sure sounded authentic to these ears. This isn’t Educating Rita territory as QTP seems more concerned with kitchen sink reality as opposed to theatrical endings. Kline’s turn does remind me of the exceptional performances by Kristin Scott Thomas, an English actress, in a couple of recent French films. For that matter kudos to Vincent Gallo who’s also done similar duty (Trouble Every Day).

Queen To Play wants to be a love poem but to the game more than an actual romance. That applies across the board in QTP as Bonnaire has to contend with her own constantly demanding family. And Kline concentrates on trying to be human, which for his character is a pretty tough assignment.

Queen To Play has an exclusive engagement at the 14 Pews microcinema this Saturday July 2 at 7 pm. The 14 Pews, located in the former home of the Aurora Picture Show, features a monthly schedule that always finds room for indie and foreign films that otherwise wouldn’t find a berth in Houston.

— Michael Bergeron