Queen to Play
Directed by Caroline Bottaro, begins with the morning routine of a sensible maid, living on the island of Corsica. Her cleaning of hotel rooms and her husband's painting of ships supports their daughter and they even can save for their teenage child's summer literature trip. The island life is beautiful and the family has all that it needs. But eventually Helene, the cleaning lady, la femme de menage, a title she always winces at, wants more. But it's not money and it's not a new home.
Her curiosity is awakened by an English speaking couple who play chess. Helene cleans their room while the couple plays on the balcony and she can't help but notice the connection this game gives the pair. The woman wears a beautiful lacy golden slip, that she leaves behind and Helene keeps it for herself.
For her husband's upcoming birthday Helene buys a chess-set. The commentary from friends at the table while they drink wine is that while none of them knows how to play, it is known chess is good for the intellect and so, why not? Ange, her husband, takes no interest in the electronic chess set whatsoever and is worried that it cost a lot.
Helene wears the sexy slip but her husband takes little notice and their marriage might seem to have a problem. She gets out of bed, goes to the kitchen and in the dim light takes out the chess game and begins to play. She fails and tries over and over again.
Her interest leads her to take notice of Doctor Kroger's set. The Doctor lives alone and is a man subject to much viscious town gossip as to how his wife really died and why he lives alone so much. Little is known of him, other than he seems quite intelligent, has a wide array of books and thankfully for Helene, a lovely, large chess set.
Helene cleans his house and asks him if he does mind spending the time to teach her how to play chess. She has an electronic set but it's really not the same. He wants to know why him? She reminds him that chances are, she's not going to find anyone else to teach her to play. He can't argue with this and so they begin.
Helene becomes quite good and the townspeople think it's crazy a woman and a maid, no less, has become so attached to the game. She wins her first tournament. And as she has her photo taken for the paper she sees the woman on the balcony who asked her a long time ago if she liked to play. The woman smiles then disappears.
Helene boards a boat for the mainland and then on to Paris for her next tournament. Her sweet husband paces below on the walk. She is ready for the challenge.
By Sarah Bahl
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