Tuesday, April 04, 2006

French Kissing: Romantic Comedies à la Française


I almost did it. That is, I nearly went an entire month without seeing a film starring Daniel Auteuil. The last time I saw the ubiquitous French actor, he was engaging in a sexually experimental foursome in the countryside with a blind man and their wives (in Peindre ou Faire l’Amour that is, although I cannot confirm how he spends his leisure time). I more recently spent Saturday evening watching Auteuil play the role of Pierre Levasseur, a wealthy businessman trying to juggle his wife (played by the perfectly dislikable Kristin Scott Thomas whose mastery of the French tongue was a pleasant surprise) and his mistress, supermodel – or, in French, “top model” (pronounced taup moodell) – Elena (the beautiful, amazonian Alice Taglioni).
When a photographer publishes a shot of Levasseur arguing with Elena over whether or not he will indeed divorce his wife for her, Levasseur needs an excuse to avoid divorce with his wife, whose family owns 60% of his business. Levasseur’s attorney, Maître Fox (Richard Berry) decides there’s only one thing to do: find the random passerby in the photo and pretend that Elena is actually dating him. Soon, with an alacrity only possible in Hollywood – or, rather, French films mimicking the Hollywood model such as La Doublure – François Pignon, an unlucky-in-love valet at a nearby restaurant, is contacted and Elena moves into his apartment as the two attempt to fool the papa razzi – and Levasseur’s wife – that the two really are an item. Hilarity consequently ensues as the goofy Pignon (Gad Elmaleh) and the beautiful in an I-could-eat-Angelina-Jolie-for-Breakfast sort of way Elena shack up, Levasseur grows increasingly more jealous of their duo and Madame Levasseur continues to investigate the ostensibly odd situation. Danny Boon is uproariously pathetic as Pignon’s berating best friend and steals the screen in a scene of disbelief when he sees that a gorgeous supermodel is indeed co-inhabiting his friend’s apartment. And Virginie Ledoyen is cold yet likable as the object of Pignon’s affections. The film was a lesson in Product Placement 101 – the Mercedes should be listed on the cast list since the cars probably took up at least 50% of screen time, and Karl Lagerfeld makes a cameo to present his new season line, starring Elena – yet this big-budget Hollwoodian commercial French film actually provided a witty storyline and perfect performances from its talent. The film is directed by Francis Veber, who also directed two of my favorite French comedies of all time: Le Dîner de Cons (The Dinner Game) and Le Placard (The Closet). In the grand tradition of terrible Hollywood remakes of good foreign films, a remake of The Closet is currently in production over at Miramax, though I think it would be nearly impossible to find a better duo than Depardieu and Auteuil. La Doublure, which, in English means “the stand-in” but whose English title is The Valet, has been at the top of the French box office this week and deservedly so. I’ll do my best from now on to somehow end up in a papa razzi photograph (as if I haven’t spent my life in such a pursuit already) because who knows what male model a wealthy businesswoman might send to my doorstep?


Last night, I went to a premiere of On Va S’Aimer, a new romantic comedy directed by Ivan Calbérac, at the Publicis Cinemas on the Champs-Elysées. In sum, I spent one hour and 26 minutes watching a bunch of French people cheat on each other and then sporadically break into song; really no different than a typical day in Paris … The film follows two couples, Laurent (Julian Boisselier) and Camille (Mélanie Doutey) and François (Gilles Lellouche) and Elodie (Alexandra Lamy). First Laurent and Elodie sleep together – and then sing about it through the streets of Paris in sort of a musical romantic comedy, if you will. Elodie then subsequently breaks up with François, leaving Laurent to decide between the forceful feminist Elodie and the sweet and charming Camille, all the while trying to prevent an angry François from discovering that he is Elodie’s mysterious new fling. Though ostensibly just another romantic comedy, the incredibly witty script and intermittent bouts of song and dance, distinguish this film from other more banal movies of its genre. While I’m not such a fan of Alexandra Lamy – nor her hairdo in the marriage scene, oh mon Dieu don’t they have fashion consultants on set? – the rest of the cast was superb, specifically Gilles Lellouche. The supporting cast also brought talent and laughs to the table, including a hilarious cameo by Patrick Chesnais as an undercover detective François hires to find out who Elodie’s new man of the hour is, and the always luminescent Anne Consigny. I watched the cast and crew shoot a scene from this film on the Pont des Arts last summer, so it was great to see it all come together so well. It reminded me of Chantal Akerman’s 1986 film Golden Eighties (Window Shopping), a glimpse of life in an underground mall where the characters cut hair, fall in and out of love, and sing about it. Long live the French musical comedy!

French Word of the Day
Undémodable : not ever going out of fashion

Quote of the Day
A Frenchman's home is where another man's wife is.

-Mark Twain

Pastry of the Day
La Madeleine

« Dating back to the 18th century in the French town of Commercy, in the region of Lorraine, the story goes that a girl name Madeleine made them for Stanislaw Lezczynski, Duke of Lorraine, who loved them and subsequently gave some to his daughter, Marie, the wife of Louis XV. Their popularity grew after that. »


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