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Sunday, May 24, 2009

SIFF Sighting: A FRENCH GIGOLO (drama; France)

French gigolo_200-32

Josiane Balasko's A FRENCH GIGOLO is a family story. Not 'family' in the Disney sense, but a tale that revolves around the inner workings of two non-traditional French families.

The first is made up of two sisters: Judith (Nathalie Baye) and Irene (played by Balasko herself). They live together and run a QVC-like television program that showcases new info-mercial caliber products. Neither are married.

The second family is centered around a couple: Marco (Eric Caravaca) and his wife Fanny (Isabelle Carré), who live with Fanny's mom and younger sister. Fanny is the partial owner of the hair salon where she works and Marco takes odd jobs.

Their lives intersect when Marco, desperate for cash to keep his wife's salon going, decides to moonlight as a male escort, and Judith becomes one of his regular clients. He is a few decades younger than she, and he has other clients, but Judith is special. There is a chemistry there that causes them both to brim with happiness in one another's presence.

But...Marco still loves his wife and is essentially only doing this for her. Of course she doesn't necessarily see it that way when another client leads her to the truth, and that is where the real story begins. Is it worth it for Marco to continue as an escort to save their financial life, though it jeopardizes their marriage? Or is his time spent with Judith more in line with what he wants out of life and therefore worth pursuing on a non-professional basis?

The writing is so good in this film, you'll find yourself switching alliances throughout, agonizing for all sides. Though it's a complicated situation, it's not too unrealistic to be believable.

The acting is superb from all of the leads (especially Baye) and were it not for some annoying, unnecessary supporting characters (Fanny's sister; Bérénice at the TV show), this would be a somewhat flawless film.

A love triangle that not only includes three people, but three problems: money, jealousy and infidelity, which makes us question our own motives and reasoning.

A FRENCH GIGOLO screened at the 35th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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