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.
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.
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.
Nocturnal Uproar (1979)
Directed and written by Catherine Breillat
Produced by Pierre Sayag
Starring Dominique Laffin, Bertrand Bonvoisin, Daniel Langlet, Dominique Basquin, Bruno Devoldère, Bruno Grimaldi, Joe Dallesandro, Marie-Hélène Breillat
In her sultry sophomore undertaking, Breillat’s again incarnate as her heroine, a pretty, pettish, dedicatedly labile budding filmmaker (Laffin) who revels in promiscuity whilst rationalizing her megrims…until she falls hard for a rugged roue (Bonvoisin) whose insouciance and aversion to commitment scuttle her wanton M.O. From an intellectualization of the irrational and aphrodisiacal, Breillat embodied the integral personal archetype inchoate in her first flick: lovable, insufferable beauties who she’d exploit in subsequent works through the early aughts. Singular even among her compatriots, she plumbs the chafing, ephemeral niches when the erotic and erratic concur, and the irrepressible salacity of her scenarios and characters are sure to gratify both her fans and enthusiasts of carnal cinema. During her tragically truncated career, Laffin enjoyed but a few meaty parts that she represented with vehement verisimilitude, and she’s as pertly beguiling here as she’d ever be. Appearances by Dallesandro and lovely Marie-Hélène are regrettably curtailed, but Serge Gainsbourg’s infectious rock score redresses their shortage.
Recommended for a double feature paired with A Real Young Girl.
Manon 70 (1968)
Directed by Jean Aurel
Written by Abbé Prévost, Jean Aurel, Cécil Saint-Laurent
Produced by Robert Dorfmann, Yvon Guézel, Luggi Waldleitner
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Sami Frey, Jean-Claude Brialy, Robert Webber, Elsa Martinelli
Transposed to chic, swinging ’60s Paris, this slightly torpid yet titillating umpteenth adaptation of Prévost’s classic fabular novella Manon Lescaut portrays the pursuit of a cosmopolitan bon vivant (Deneuve) by a handsome, sportive news correspondent (Frey) who wins her heart, but not her troth; addicted to her luxe lifestyle, the unscrupulous beauty will bed any man of means to maintain it, and her promiscuity piques his irascibility like an open flame to a dynamite fuse. Perchance the most listless treatment of this narrative, Aurel’s mode here nearly effects sporadic longueur, its finest moments contingent on the considerable charisma of its gorgeous stars and settings. However, his conference of drollery and a perversely modern prurience to this story while dispensing with its tragic conclusion is laudably elegant; a less able filmmaker (as King or Brass) would surely have contrived something approximating dopey softcore porn of a tawdry or soppy mold. Ever debonaire, Brialy steals his every scene as Deneuve’s opportunistic sibling, whose ingratiating cajolery and chicanery coaxes her transient lovers almost as effectually as her enticements. Magnificent orchestral and chamber standards by Vivaldi and a couple of groovy tunes courtesy of Gainsbourg sublime the ambience of this flick’s admittedly trifling proceedings. For languid summer beach parties, this is the picture of choice.