The Austin Chronicle

Mon Homme

Not rated, 96 min. Directed by Bertrand Blier. Starring Anouk Grinberg, Gérard Lanvin, Valéria Bruni Tedeschi, Olivier Martinez, Mathieu Kassovitz, Sabine Azéma.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 5, 1997

Love and prostitution make for a heady, disastrous mix in this new film by Blier (Going Places, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs), but it's the ribald characters essayed by Grinberg and Lanvin that keep Mon Homme from descending into pathos and pedantry. Grinberg plays Marie, a thirtysomething hooker in Lyons, France, who claims time and again that she loves her chosen profession above all else, despite the fact that there's an emotional hole in her core the size of an overripe persimmon. Day and night, she bides her time in the lobby of the local hotel, waiting for lonely men to seek out her services. Things take an unanticipated upswing one day when Marie encounters a bedraggled, unkempt homeless bear of a man (Lanvin) nestling in the trash bins beside her apartment door. Concerned that the rats might get him, she asks him up, washes him off, and asks him if he'd like to be her pimp (“a nice pimp,” she specifies). His name is Jeannot and after a moment of reflection he accepts the offer in light of his present, unremarkable situation (you can almost hear him weighing the pros and cons: “Rats versus crabs. Hmmm…”). As in all good cinematic prostitute/pimp relations, love blooms quickly, and begins to rot soon after. High on the good life, Jeannot quickly forsakes the high-strung Marie in favor of the more amply-breasted Sanguine (Tedeschi), whom he attempts to pimp on the sly, much to everyone's dismay. Suffice to say that by the time Marie comes to her senses -- three quarters of the way through the film -- and bounces the lout in favor of the sensitive, unemployed poet-naïf Jean-Francois (Martinez), Blier has explored everything from need to greed with various sidetracks into such fanciful topics as why older johns make better lovers and whether the suit makes the pimp or vice versa? Blier's film fits into the “glorious mess” category perhaps a bit too snugly. His penchant (here at least) for having his actors drone on directly to the camera is amusing at first but grows wearying by the final reel, and his theme -- love and money and the absence of both -- is all over the map. Grinberg saves the film, though, with her effervescent, giddily charming whorishness. She reminds you of Giulietta Masina in La Strada more than anything else, all cockeyed, childlike optimism in the face of disaster. She's so bubbly at times that it becomes intoxicating. Lanvin gives the appearance of a younger Depardieu, which is unsurprising given Blier's previous work with that actor in the seminal Going Places. Big men wield big emotions seems to be Blier's point here, but those terrific characterizations aside, Mon Homme is still more of a sexy muddle than anything else, a case of too many dark emotions colliding in the Lyons twilight.

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