Mediocre: The Frontier

The Frontier (2015)

Directed by Oren Shai
Written by Oren Shai, Webb Wilcoxen
Produced by Dana Lustig, Mark Smirnoff, Tal Fiala, Elric Kane, Stephen Harrison, Moshe Barkat, Pirchia Rechter, Dari Shai, Haim Slutzky, Dustin Cook
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Kelly Lynch, A.J. Bowen, Jamie Harris, Izabella Miko, Jim Beaver, Liam Aiken

Synopsis

She’s yet to put enough miles between herself and a homicide in Flagstaff when a drifter (Donahue) stops at a rundown diner and motel for a meal and overnight lodging, only to find that its proprietress (Lynch) and patrons (Harris, Miko, Beaver, Aiken) are soon to be recipients of over $1.7M in cash laundered from a recent heist. Their mercenary commonalities and continual visits by an obtrusive policeman (Bowen) complicate her designs on the money and a clean escape.

Script

Motivations are stultified and their promising story’s second act is bogged by Shai’s and Wilcoxen’s drippy, dispensable exposition, which temporarily reduces a hard-boiled crime thriller to a cheap costume drama. Had so much background been alluded rather than dilated, and the plot enhanced with twice as many twists, they would’ve written a winner.

Direction

His conduct is slick if unambitious: Shai shoots action and dramatics with equal facility, and prudently interposes between both direful, often speechless close-ups and slow zooms, mostly of Donahue.

Cinematography

If at all, Jay Keitel may be known to viewers of independent cinema as Amy Seimetz’s preferred DP. Diurnal scenes are gorgeously enriched though his lucent lenses, but by night, he’s manifestly affected by a nyctophobia plaguing so many in his trade. No harvest moon’s as fulgent as this movie’s nocturnal lighting.

Production design

Worn postwar furnishings and appliances salvaged and fabricated for Taylor Jean’s and Steve Morden’s set design, Yasmine Abraham’s perfectly selected and lightly distressed costumery, hairstyling courtesy of Emilio Uribe, and every other artifact of Lindsey Moran’s production design — driver’s licenses, matchbooks, photographs, suitcases, purses, bottles, mugs and more — replicate the mass-produced fashions of the ’70s. Irrespective of budget, few pictures set during this era look so verisimilar, largely because the aforementioned grasp its grime.

Histrionics

Hers could be the face and presence in a thousand last known photos of doomed and endangered beauties circa ’72-’84, so the niche that Donahue’s occupied since The House of the Devil is scarcely shared. She makes the best of her sly miss with chilly charm, unostentatiously easy expressivity, and a sensitivity which may convince your amygdala that she’s really rolling with so many punches. By contrast, indie regular Bowen (her assailant in House) has defied typecasting in a sweep of roles to varied results; here, he looks a southwestern part that he plays well, but his inauthenticity’s betrayed by a gentle voice. Harris enlivens most of his scenes as a friendly fop in his father’s footsteps, but Miko doesn’t flesh his bleached, bubbleheaded wife with such gratification. Perhaps the worst personation of Lynch’s career can be witnessed here, as she gratuitously overacts her every single line, mien and motion. Beaver’s brutish career criminal and Aiken’s antsy abettor are shallow figures energetically realized by their seasoned character actors.

Score

At its barest instrumentation in a minor key — guitar, horns, underlying strings — Ali Helnwein’s score is resonant of its place and period. It turns mushy with the inclusion of flutes, then musty when electric guitars and staccato strings are employed.

Highlights

Donahue’s pitch- and picture-perfect in every scene, whether evincing trauma and trouble, or trading pleasantries with Harris.

Nadir

Pick one:

  1. The movie’s midpoint slows to crawl through tawdry tales of woe involving Jack Warner worsened by Lynch’s awful acting.
  2. In a regressive episode immediate to bloody gunplay, Lynch’s bygone starlet recites lines from an unrealized production à la Norma Desmond to embarrass everyone watching.

Conclusion

If this were as good as it looks or as exciting as its promotional campaign implied, it would probably be some sort of cult classic by now. Regrettably, too much is said and too little done in an expertly staged but underwhelming production.

Mediocre: Creep 2

Creep 2 (2017)

Directed by Patrick Brice
Written by Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Produced by Carolyn Craddock, Jason Blum, Josh Braun, Christopher Donlon, Mark Duplass, Mel Eslyn
Starring Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan

Synopsis

Another day, another night, another hire, another murder….right? Her serial exposing the lonely men behind craigslist personals is an unmitigated flop on YouTube, so a frustrated, exploitative videographer (Akhavan) leaps at the opportunity to interview an oddball (Duplass) mired in a midlife crisis, who professes to be a serial killer. He’s thus far her only riveting subject; unlike his anterior victims, she’s unflinching and provocative. Who’s luring who?

Script

The first video was a microbudgeted marvel: cunningly contrived, well-acted, disquieting and hilarious with disregard to any distinction between horror and comedy, and possibly the only good movie that Blumhouse has ever produced. Brice and Duplass are deservedly praised for developing this sequel from a variant perspective that generates a few instances of silent and suggested suspense, and almost as many laughs, but this time the scares are stingy. Choice characterizations can’t sustain a script that loses momentum during the movie’s final fifteen minutes.

Direction

As before, all shots are either stationary or hand-held by the spontaneous stars, to whom Brice’s direction is largely overshadowed and subordinated.

Cinematography

Akhavan and Brice keep glare or shade from spoiling any shots.

Editing

Concatenating and condensing cuts are as adroitly effectuated by Christopher Donlon here as in the preceding pic.

Histrionics

Tensions and a commoving congeniality between its headliners form the nucleus of this production, interplayed by Duplass and Akhavan in outstanding, unnerving verisimilitude. Ever a comedic actor, Duplass inhabits his self-obsessed, homicidal lunatic with the ebullient enticement, dread despondence and manic outbursts that made his character unforgettable. Not merely a foil behind the camera, Akhavan renders her documentarian manqué’s desperation, ambition, doubt and fear just as believably, and with teeth — this could just as well be titled Creeps.

Score

Spanning not five minutes, two percussive, synthesized tracks by Julian Wass are as listenable as anything he’s recorded for the Duplass brothers’ other projects.

Highlights

Nearly half of the runtime consists of Duplass’s spoken exposition; this wouldn’t work, but his locution of these monologues mesmerize, as does the contrast of his wolfish insinuations and effusive ingratiation. Akhavan counters him with a tough skepticism that’s never inordinately bitchy or self-conscious.

Flaws

First blood spilt during an otherwise fun prologue is observably digital. After an hour of discussion and misdirection, a protracted, uninspired anticlimax at Donlon’s only bad splice fordoes the story, and isn’t redeemed by a clever end.

Conclusion

Nobody reasonably expected this to match its predecessor (which loses much of its power after it’s first seen), but Brice and Duplass couldn’t land that last punch, or replicate the affright that made it great. As a result, this is that most disappointing of mediocrities that falls short of the considerable talent invested. Remakes, ripoffs and unimaginative franchises for bottom-feeders are Blumhouse’s lifeblood, but we expect more from these two. Feel free to blame Jason Blum.

Mediocre: 5×2

5×2 (2004)

Directed by François Ozon
Written by François Ozon, Emmanuèle Bernheim
Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Philippe Dugay
Starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stéphane Freiss, Françoise Fabian, Michael Lonsdale, Géraldine Pailhas, Antoine Chappey, Marc Ruchmann, Jason Tavassoli, Yannis Belkacem

Synopsis

In counter-chronology, a quintet of momentous episodes scratch the surface of a failed marriage’s bitter divorce, advoutry confessed and concealed, triste parturition, rapturous wedding and its racy reception, and transitional inception at a waterside Italian resort.

Script

As usual, Ozon’s superficiality is betrayed by his lascivious emphases, but his tendentious portrayal of this movie’s two-dimensional characters and their respective turpitudes is especially galling. In the most blatantly partial example, a longsuffering wife (Bruni-Tedeschi) quietly endures chagrin while her husband (Freiss) narrates his participation in an orgy to his brother (Chappey) and his boyfriend (Ruchmann); on their wedding night, her fling with a handsome American (Tavassoli) is treated as an erotically condonable caprice. Ozon weirdly, habitually abstracts to denigrate heterosexuality, but his worst misdeed here is to peddle nullity as arcana. Discordant from the tenderness with which he treats his son and wife, Freiss’s cullion is elsewise unaccountably desperate, abusive, petty, remiss, and craven in contrived contradistinction to his better half. No causation can be clearly charged to his quasi-rape contiguous to the finalization of their divorce, anguished absence during his son’s birth, or wanton harassment of his wife. His demonization of straight men demonstrates this filmmaker’s inability to concoct substance behind semblance of obscenity, much less dredge insights therein. By the pen and lens of a Rohmer, Aurel, Blier or Téchiné, such a quintipartite narrative would yield fruit of a sort that he hasn’t the depth or humanity to pick.

Direction

None of the reprehension above pertains to Ozon’s perfectly professional direction, whereby his handsome cast is framed in potent foci that don’t detract from palpable ambiences in ordinary and idyllic settings. That doltish gimmickry that impairs his sequent efforts was years forthcoming, as were innumerable posts to fora by fans who agonize to extenuate or rationalize it.

Cinematography

As for other movies by Ozon and Olivier Assayas, Yorick Le Saux here works his verve for high contrast abounding in pitch blacks, and coordination of cool and brilliant colors.

Editing

Her contributions are smoothly unnoticeable until Monica Coleman’s abrupt cuts powerfully, proximately communicate intervallic omissions.

Histrionics

Not one false note vitiates rigorous performances by Bruni-Tedeschi, Freiss and most of their co-stars, who commit to their parts with a subtle mimesis that indues verisimility even to Ozon’s weakest codswallop. Coarsely compulsive Fabian and Lonsdale are almost wasted playing the spatting parents of Bruni-Tedeschi’s wife and mother. Tavassoli’s painfully stiff delivery is the sole exception to this concerted merit.

Score

Like the aforementioned acting, two moving, lushly orchestrated themes courtesy of Philippe Rombi are too good for this picture, as are other musical selections by Paolo Conte, Bobby Solo, Wilma Goich, Luigi Tenco, Nico Fidenco and Gino Paoli that predominate on its soundrack.

Highlights

Nicely registered reactions between lines may be the best reason to view this. A beautifully conclusive wide shot of the Mediterranean offing from a Sardinian strand fades to black upon sundown, patefying how this Parisian shoots with a grace that he can’t write.

Flaws

Aside from Ozon’s cheap characterizations and vacuous foundation, both Chappey’s and Ruchmann’s, and Lonsdale’s and Fabian’s pairs are more intriguing than the protagonistic spouses.

Conclusion

This is what Téchiné, Pialat, Breillat, or the Dardenne brothers would’ve produced were they as shallow as Michael Bay. Ozon wears his influences on his sleeve, but his well-crafted ersatz is immediately discernable from a complete story about complete people.

Instead, watch We Won’t Grow Old Together.

Execrable: Tip Top

Tip Top (2013)
Directed by Serge Bozon
Written by James Tucker, Axelle Ropert, Serge Bozon, Odile Barski
Produced by Jesus Gonzalez-Elvira, Philippe Martin, Nicolas Steil. David Thion
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Kiberlain, Francois Damiens, Karole Rocher, Saïda Bekkouche, Allain Naron, Aymen Saïdi, Elie Lison, Francois Négret, Samy Naceri, Youssef Tiberkanine, Brahim Waabach, Patrick Pais, Jean-Marc Hermance

  • Who murdered a police department’s informant in a suburb of one among several Villenueves?
  • Why are the fetishistic detectives (Huppert, Kiberlain) assigned by their internal affairs division to investigate his murder so trifling, insecure and verbosely incapable?
  • Why is the inspector (Damiens) to whom the slain snitch reported such a unsightly, equally insufferable jerkoff?
  • Why are his informants noticeable numbskulls?
  • Is sadomasochistic foreplay between Huppert’s busybody and her husband (Naceri) actually intended to amuse or arouse?
  • Might anyone have bothered to previse Bozon’s sister and DP Céline that she wouldn’t be lensing her drab, often blued photography in 2002?
  • Has anyone mentioned to Bozon that his simplistic script and style result in preciously stagy enactments of twee drollery and buffoonery that aren’t remotely laughable?
  • Likewise, how are the only tolerable actors (Rocher, Lison, Naron) of his ostensive comedy foils who’ve nearly nothing of interest to do?
  • Why is this transposition of a British novel so preoccupied with France’s Algerian diaspora and Algeria’s civil unrest when Bozon has nothing funny or perceptive to relate concerning either?
  • Can Huppert salvage but one of his scenes?
  • Why is one of France’s finest actresses periodically lapping up drops of poorly-rendered CG blood running from the bridge to the tip of her nose?
  • Conversely, why is gaunt, gangling, gawky, graceless Kiberlain still a leading lady?
  • Could Bozon possibly decelerate his picture’s plodding pace, so that it resembles Godfrey Reggio’s pompous pap?
  • Does its anticlimax signify anything?
  • Is this what now passes for Gallic humor?

The only truthful answer to these and all other queries pertaining to Bozon’s wantonly unfunny, unsexy, uninteresting, garrulous, cutesy crime comedy is: French cinema is now nearly as dumb, ugly, and self-congratulatory as Hollywood, and witless actors of the Fifth Republic occasionally make valueless movies, too.

Mediocre: Sex Doll

Sex Doll (2016)
Written and directed by Sylvie Verheyde
Produced by Bruno Berthemy, Bertrand Faivre, Soledad Gatti-Pascual, Rachel Dargavel
Starring Hafsia Herzi, Ash Stymest, Karole Rocher, Lindsay Karamoh, Myriam Djeljeli, Paul Hamy, Ira Max, Jeremy Bennett, Simon Killick
Not by chance do the paths of an experienced Franco-Algerian call girl (Herzi) and an obscure oddball (Stymest) dedicated to rescuing cocottes from their profession cross often in London, before her madam (Rocher) sends her and a budding bawd (Max) to a manse for a weekend when they’re to entertain wealthy clients (Bennett, Killick). Verheyde’s direction is compositionally satisfactory, but her mushy meliorist’s misconception of human nature — if not prostitution — is as inaccurate (though more naif) as the wholly transactional perspective of the neoliberal. Worse, its influence on her dialogue redounds to mortifying moments of outright ostentation during a few critical conversations. Ick! A current fixture of flat, footling French flicks, lushly photogenic Herzi seems less sultrily seductive than snoozily sulky, but she’s as creditable as most of her co-stars, bar scrawny Stymest, an unbearably stiff ham whose asinine tattoos and face render his self-styled savior more halfwit than hero. If the characters of this tedious Anglo-French production were as compelling as Verheyde’s developmental aspirations, she might’ve overcome her deadly pomposity.

Instead, watch The Chosen Ones.

Mediocre: Teenage Cocktail

Teenage Cocktail (2016)
Directed by John Carchietta
Written by Amelia Yokel, John Carchietta, Sage Bannick, Chris Sivertson
Produced by Travis Stevens, Chris Sivertson, Jade Porter II, Nick Zuvic, Jean-Baptiste Babin, David Atlan Jackson, Joel Thibout
Starring Nichole Sakura, Fabianne Therese, Pat Healy, Michelle Borth, A.J. Bowen, Joshua Leonard, Zak Henri, Lou Wegner, River Alexander, Laura Covelli, Isaac Salzman
They could in remunerative repose cam to their hearts’ and PayPal accounts’ content anywhere, but a voracity for relocation to polluted, overcrowded, overtaxed, climatically intemperate NYC spurs two sapphic, Californian ditzes (Sakura, Therese) to an inadvisable tryst with and blackmail of an unstable patron (Healy), which ends in disaster. Roundly good performances, Justin Kane’s cinematography, and a cozily synthesized score by Steve Damstra and Mads Heldtberg comprise the substance of this capably made but vapidly anaphrodisiac drama. Healy’s always convincing as a picayune miscreant, and creepily outshines his co-stars. Conflicts and motivations of Yokel’s story are equally musty, until all plausibility is jettisoned during a ludicrously bloody culmination. This is barely recommended for completists resolved to see everything in which perennial transgressors Healy and Bowen (who has nothing of interest to do as a platitudinous principal) appear.

Instead, watch Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

Execrable: A Reason to Believe

A Reason to Believe (1995)
Directed and written by Douglas Tirola
Produced by Ged Dickersin, Douglas Tirola, Christopher Trela
Starring Allison Smith, Danny Quinn, Jay Underwood, Kim Walker, Georgia Emelin, Keith Coogan, Christopher Birt, Lisa Lawrence, Obba Babatundé, Holly Marie Combs, Mark Metcalf, Robin Riker, Afton Smith, Joe Flanigan, David Overlund, Jimmy Kieffer, Mary Thomas, Michelle Stratton, Rachel Parker, Sally Kenyon, Andy Holcomb, Cary Spadafora
Generous hallmarks epitomizing shitty social dramas of American cinema in the ’90s are encompassed in this especially leaden waste of time: hideously drab raiment, furnishings and photography; a dire dearth of congenial characters; semi-coherent dialogue; maddening incommunication; a majority of (largely superfluous) scenes that tread water at a glacial pace; conflict between two unsavory factions morally distinguished only by the upright position of one assumed on repugnantly ideological grounds. Shortly after a university’s fraternity of sexist creeps clashes publicly with its equally distasteful feminist cadre, an imprudent student (Smith) in drunken, scantily togged attendance at a party held by the former is raped by a frat boy (Underwood). Initially, she hasn’t the backbone to confess this misfortune to her craven boyfriend (Quinn), nor has he to confront her assailant, even when he merely presupposes her infidelity. Humdrum hearsay and hassles drag tediously to the rapist’s expulsion from both his fraternity and college, and a presumed investigation by local police, after the ornery, opportunistic president of the school’s women’s students group (Emelin) obligates his victim to criminate him. As a feminist, Tirola was one of a few who pioneered America’s mainstream cinematic transition from feminism’s frequently illogical, yet often justifiable second wave to its psychotic third; as a filmmaker, he’s as lazily unimaginative and inexpert as any hack who’s exploited a controversial issue. Most of the picture consists of prosaic pans and fecklessly framed wide shots cut badly in alternation with close-ups, and well over half of the scenes in its half-hour of story stretched beyond 100 minutes are filler, such as classes wherein an overbearing professor (Babatundé) demands that his students parrot propagandistic platitudes in an unintended mockery of Socratic method. Performances are for the most part adequate, but Emelin noticeably struggles to remember her largely ludicrous lines, peppered with flagrantly false statistics and politicized prattle. Metcalf and Coogan are amusingly cast against and to types as the university’s dean and a stoner, the movie’s only likable people. In contrast, Emelin’s barracuda is somehow slightly more repellent than Underwood’s petulant rapist (essentially still Bug from Uncle Buck); that she expresses momentary glee upon apprisal of his felony for the advantage it affords in a neutral context suggests that Tirola’s just as sleazy as his deuteragonist. One of the film’s few praiseworthy points is its accurate depiction of casual rape, and it might’ve been partly redeemed had it explicitly cautioned young women about the dangers of unaccompanied carousal in certain venues, or advised them how to immediately report incidents of sexual assault to ease enquiries and arraignments, but Tirola shirks the social responsibility that his harridans demand from the opposite sex. Instead, this abominable agitprop promotes nothing save credulity to every allegation and the unattainable lunacy of social justice — always a disservice to anyone assaulted or wrongly accused.

Execrable: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)
Directed by Marielle Heller
Written by Phoebe Gloeckner, Marielle Heller
Produced by Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit, Debbie Brubaker, Corentin De Saedeleer, Shani Geva, Amanda Marshall, Amy Nauiokas, Michael Sagol, Jorma Taccone
Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Madeleine Waters, Abby Wait, Austin Lyon, Christopher Meloni, Margarita Levieva, Carson Mell, John Parsons, Quinn Nagle
In a fraction of the time trifled to view this plodding drama (adapted from one among umpteen interchangeable graphic bildungsromans authored and illustrated by introspective nudnicks), one could instead dive headfirst into a wading pool to experience a comparable depth and discomfort suffered. A homely, naive, adolescent cartoonist (Powley) in 1976 San Francisco doodles ceaselessly, idolizes Aline Kominsky, languishes in self-absorbed insecurity, and thrills to initial trysts with the sordid boyfriend (Skarsgård) of her sluttish, alcoholic single mother (Wiig), then a cute classmate (Lyon) unprepared for her lasciviousness. Successive clichés compose the bulk of Gloeckner’s quasi-autobiographical pablum: teenage defloration with an adult, animated sketches conveying immediate passions, a miff with responsibly uncool dad (Meloni), Mom’s coked-up capers and dancing wassails, a midnight screening of Rocky Horror, sapphic and whorish dalliances with skanky friends (Waters, Levieva), a fanciful acid trip, and that requisite assertion of feminine independence, which has for decades empowered and enkindled privileged white women the world over to irreparably wreck their lives. Mustachioed Skarsgård and ginchy Wiig lend odious believability to their roles as the sort of unseemly couple with whom anyone’s boomer parents might’ve made acquaintance, but Powley and some of her coetaneous co-stars too often diverge from naturalism to overact. Passable production design by Jonah Markowitz benefits from exteriors shot on location in San Fran, Carmen Grande’s largely hideous, accurate costumery and Emily K. Rolph’s nostalgically tacky appointments. However, Susan Alegria’s set decoration spoils each interior’s realism with a surplusage of the latter, arranged as characteristically millennial clutter uncommon in middle-class households of the shaggy ’70s. Everything in this unfunny, unsexy story has been done exhaustively before with a proficiency and profundity to which tasteless Gloeckner and Heller merely aspire, but if nothing else, it’s a fine reminder first of how tired the illogic, postures, dysfunction and repercussions of the sexual revolution and its creaky counterculture have become, and second just how effortlessly one can separate visionary rips (like Crumb or Kominsky) from commonplace degenerates, most of whom are as noisily boring as they’re portrayed here.

Instead, watch Slums of Beverly Hills.

Execrable: Je t’aime moi non plus

Je t’aime moi non plus (1976)
Written and directed by Serge Gainsbourg
Produced by Jacques-Eric Strauss, Claude Berri
Starring Joe Dallesandro, Jane Birkin, Hugues Quester, Nana Gainsbourg, Reinhard Kolldehoff, Gerard Depardieu
Ever the trailblazer, Gainsbourg baked cinema’s first great queer turkey years before that particular platter was served annually as Oscar bait. In a rural pseudo-America, the relationship of two strapping, gay garbagemen is disrupted when that twosome’s hunkier homo (Dallesandro) falls for a boyish gamine (Birkin) employed as the barmaid of a remote roadside cafe, to the chagrin and eventual, violent ire of his embattled boyfriend (Quester). Lest he deviate from wont, their transitory romance is consummated with shrieking sodomy, for which they’re ejected from several hotels. Trite (if not tame) by contemporary standards, Gainsbourg’s foul fiasco hasn’t much to recommend it save the considerable, concerted screen presence of its attractive stars. Alas, Quester is the only one among them who can actually act; the camera loves them both, but Little Joe is almost as stiffly unfit when dubbed as usual, and hasn’t any chemistry with the director’s scrawnily curveless mistress. Their adorable bull terrier Nana steals her every scene, mayhap because she’s spared any lines. As in all his pictures, some tackily gimmicky shots are sprinkled throughout elsewise technically sound direction, and ham-fisted symbolism abounds in most scenes, uttered often as daft dialogue verifying that Serge’s verbal verve was strictly lyric. Just as wearisome are his patently sham American trappings: a Mack truck, hamburgers, bluejeans and a rock band that performs during and after a horrific competition of dumpy ecdysiasts. Depardieu’s briefly squandered in the role of an addled equestrian, as is perennial nebbish Michel Blanc. Nearly a decade after its controversial release, voxless variants of Gainsbourg’s classic, celebrated, titular, trademark signature single serenade the leads as they kiss ineptly. Lingering shots of a dumpsite and a climax wherein Birkin and Dallesandro generate minimal erotic heat via anal intercourse in the bed of his garbage truck remind us what this movie is, and where it belongs.

Instead, watch Going Places.

Execrable: Charlotte for Ever

Charlotte for Ever (1986)
Directed and written by Serge Gainsbourg
Produced by Claudie Ossard, Jean-Claude Fleury, Charlotte Fraisse
Starring Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Roland Bertin, Roland Dubillard, Anne Le Guernec, Sabeline Campo
That late phase of his life and career when Gainsbourg intimated incestuous relations with his adolescent daughter for publicity and profit climaxed with his hokey ode to hebephilia, persisted with a salaciously sloppy smooch when Charlotte won a César Award for her lead performance in An Impudent Girl, then finally fizzled for the failure of this preposterously plotless, mawkish, kinky little drama, notable chiefly for its scant score and cockamamie comedy, mayhap half of which is deliberate. Succeeding his wife’s fiery demise in an automotive accident (from which he escaped with a supposedly scorched, gloved right hand), an alcoholic screenwriter (Gainsbourg) years past his prime mourns her by moping around his home, composing bad poetry, pitching lewdly unsalable scripts to his producer (Dubillard), comforting a heartbroken friend (Bertin), flirting with his sullen, sylphlike scion (Gainsbourg) and her equally beddable, if brainless friend (Campo), and boffing a butterfaced student (Le Guernec) under his tutelage. All else is implied. His admittedly striking composition can’t be faulted for all the truly unique inanities that Gainsbourg realizes therein: Charlotte whips wet, unshampooed hair to and fro while wiggling her rump; father and daughter reenact their respective wife’s and mother’s fictional death with slot cars; hungover Serge fingers his throat for genuine emesis; as Charlotte attacks Le Guernec in a jaundiced wax, her dad tears himself away from his toilet (and a close-up of his erratic urinary stream) to manhandle the ugly, shapely strumpet, then dance with his little girl. They recite and vogue rather than act, for who needs characters when they already are? As sulking Charlotte gazes dazed in what appears a harrowed hebetude punctuated by periodic outbursts, stuporous yet spastic Serge emotes weirdly, rotating his twisting, flicking paws, quoting classic literature in monologies, and muttering ham-handed exposition because he can’t or won’t exert allusion in a non-lyrical context: “I’ll steal something from classics like Benjamin Constant. Herman won’t notice. Poor idiot! He’s an ignoramus.” Most of this transpires as one might imagine those weekends or summers when the divorced pop star enjoyed custody. Just as aforementioned Lemon Incest is derived from the principal theme of Chopin’s third étude in E major, the tune of this picture’s eponymous theme song is cribbed from Khachaturian’s Andantino; in both, Charlotte’s breathily inept vocals remind all listeners that she’s as much her mother’s daughter as an inarguable beneficiary of daddy’s nepotism. Naturally, Gainsbourg’s music is excellent, but meager in repetition of only a few tracks. Leave it to Serge to err in a manner contrary to everyone else! Despite its absurdity, this most decadent chanteur’s laughable lust letter is truly singular, and entertaining for its perverted peculiarities.