For about its first twenty minutes, Bertrand Blier's Mon homme had me completely enthralled.
Like many a Blier film, it boldly takes the form of a grunge fairy tale. Each main character is a hopelessly romanticised figure – Marie (Anouk Grinberg), a whore who loves her job and believes she is blessed with the gift of "making men's sap flow"; and Jeannot (Gérard Lanvin), a homeless bum that Marie picks up who happens to have the unerring sexual potency of a stud.
Blier is a unique and often underrated filmmaker. His sensibility is a fertile cross between the Nouvelle Vague and Luis Buñuel. His erotic fables tend to unfold in a strange, fantasy world – where characters talk candidly to the camera about the miraculous force of their desire.
In the first movement of Mon homme – which mainly concentrates on Marie and her daily rounds – Blier's full skill as a cinematic storyteller is evident: clever scene ideas, snappy transitions, and poetic, magical touches likely to make most viewers' sap flow. Once Jeannot becomes Marie's pimp, however, Blier indulges his favourite form of high farce, and the film greatly suffers.
The principal rule of Blier's narrative game seems to be this: a whore will become a housewife, and a housewife will become a whore; a bum will become a businessman and a businessman will become a bum. This round robin of character transformations and identity-switches quickly becomes tedious and predictable – even in the wacky, surreal climate that Blier creates.
Perhaps the most curious aspect of Blier's approach – and the element that sometimes sinks his movies dead in their tracks – is his fondness for entropy. Everything and everybody winds down and goes sour. Blier seems to harbour a particularly dark hatred of the bourgeois couple and the nuclear family – all his characters, whether they be visionary artists or sex-crazed lovers, unfailingly end up playing out some grim, suburban ritual.
That is why Mon homme, which starts out on such a high, ends up so low.
MORE Blier: Merce la vie
© Adrian Martin January 1998