Monday, April 25, 2011
Jeune et Belle
(Natalie Baye in "A French Gigolo")
I have a soft spot for mainstream French movies, the kind that aren’t really trying to be film, but that just tell a story and let you spend ninety minutes in the French mindset and in Paris if you’re lucky. It’s as refreshing as some time away, and you don’t have to take a plane.
This past weekend's selections from Netflix instant watch were about love, the true kind versus the kind that you pay for, for convenience sake. These were upper middle class scenarios, so no down and dirty prostitution and tales of societal misery. Just good clothes and the struggle between personal freedom and intimacy.
In “I do: How to Get Married and Stay Single,” a perfume nose hires Charlotte Ginsburg to be the perfect fiancée so his family will leave him alone. “Priceless” is the tale of two young beauts – a man and a woman - who hunt down older partners in order to mooch off of their well-heeled life along the Riviera. The best though, was “A French Gigolo,” which endearingly tells the story of being the older woman asking for such services (yes, let's acknowledge that that perspective would likely not be considered on this side of the "pond").
France is a country that prides itself on its sensuality, on breeding the femme fatale, on coining the term “ménage à trois,” and accepting the open marriage (how many times have you been reminded that both Mitterand’s wife and mistress were at his funeral). But all that is facade. The French are the most tradition-minded, family-oriented people I know. And every single one of these movies reaffirms it. In the chilling voiceover that ends “A French Gigolo,” the woman “of a certain age” declares, “I am a free woman.” That she is, but lest anyone think otherwise, the free French woman is lonely and will live to regret it.