Palatable: Tenue de soiree

Tenue de soirée (A.K.A. Ménage) (1986)
Written and directed by Bertrand Blier
Produced by René Cleitman, Catherine Blier Florin
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Michel Blanc, Miou-Miou, Michel Creton, Bruno Cremer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Caroline Silhol, Jean-François Stévenin, Mylène Demongeot, Jean-Yves Berteloot
Joyance is rare in the gutter, where immiserated spouses (Blanc, Miou-Miou) languish until they’re enriched and debauched by a charismatically manic burglar (Depardieu), who seduces both after introducing them to his nomadic, intuitive pursuit. From the brawny bisexual’s schemes come prurient escapades through interrelational and epicene permutations, each more depraved than the last. Blier’s fourth film starring his (and everyone else’s) favorite leading man is energized by Depardieu at the robust peak of his powers, as a force of nature capable of channeling any vim, violence or vitiation that the novelist and filmmaker could conceive. The headlining trio consummate his rapid loquacity with a kinky elan, seamlessly vacillating between thalian perversion and touching tristesse, all penned and directed with equal elegance, and suitably scored by Serge Gainsbourg. Like Imamura, Breillat or Almodóvar, Blier elicits from smutty scenarios stories of remarkable inspiration; for whoever knows what to expect from him, this one is satisfactorily scabrous.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Going Places or Bad Education.

Mediocre: On My Way

On My Way (2013)
Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot
Written by Emmanuelle Bercot, Jérôme Tonnerre
Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Christine De Jekel
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Némo Schiffman, Gérard Garouste, Camille, Claude Gensac, Paul Hamy, Mylène Demongeot, Hafsia Herzi, Séréphin Ngakoutou Beninga

One would be in less danger
From the wiles of the stranger
If one’s own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.

–Ogden Nash, Family Court

Her iconic visage and surname have adorned innumerable advertisements; upon fairly few as this dull drama’s theatrical posters and billboards has it been so conspicuously, necessarily engrossed, for she’s prime among its few assets. When her relationship with a unfaithful lover sours simultaneous to the seizure of her eatery for arrearage, Deneuve’s restaurateur and whilom Miss Brittany is opportunely at liberty to attend a reunion of regional rivals for the title of Miss France (c.’69), and escort her bedevillingly bratty grandson (Schiffman) to the rural residence of his gruff, agnatic grandfather (Garouste) while her dyspeptic daughter (Camille) pursues an internship. Bercot slavishly observes the bromidic burden and stale scenario of archetypically post-feminine road movies, in most of which a protagonist abandons her responsibilities and their collateral cumbers to embrace personal, imperative intangibles as she “finds herself.” If her perdurable leading lady’s unshakable credibility and idiosyncratically perfect performance buoy this production to the surface of mediocrity, it’s still weighted there by the cliches and contrivances of its directress’s bourgeois quasi-progressivism: every independently enterprising bachelor (Hamy, a smarmy chapman of smuggled cigarettes) is a lascivious sleazebag, yet cantankerous politicians of the mainstream left (Garouste’s socialist mayoral candidate) are catches; the sole black stranger (Beninga, as an affable security guard) is nobly empathetic; crabby careerists unfit for motherhood aren’t portrayed as negligent in their life’s most significant undertaking, and their equally, obnoxiously waspish children are to be deemed adorable. A few scenes suit their star’s charm, as when she confabulates with an elderly farmer who laboriously rolls her a cigarette during the first act, participates in a united photoshoot with her peers in the second, and enjoys romance and rapprochement in the third, but these vignettes seem intervallically inharmonious with the peeving postmodernism of the whole. Withal, Bercot’s nepotism bears mixed results: her partner and DP, Guillaume Schiffman, lenses vividly idyllic scenery alfresco contributing to the pastoral ambience and beauty complementing her scanty story, but their son’s unendurable as the miffing stripling. Naturally, Deneuve and the cast’s contemporary boomers outshine their junior co-stars. Despite Bercot’s basic capability, her script co-written with Tonnerre is comprised of fluff exceeding substance, plodding at the velocity of a crippled snail. Rufus Wainwright’s maudlin whine and typically twee tunes by Sufjan Stevens and The Divine Comedy render two crucial scenes and conclusive credits plainly exquisite. This is only, scarcely recommended for Deneuve’s devotees; even when it flails, she shines.