Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Viens chez moi, j'habite chez une copine

1981, France, directed by Patrice Leconte

David Bordwell has an illuminating and amusing post on movie titles (how many writers on film have a breadth of reference that extends from Rodney Dangerfield to Robert Bresson?), and when it came to scribbling some notes on this film it struck me that there was a wave of outsize French comedy titles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many of them are attached to Patrice Leconte's earlier films: in addition to this movie, he directed Circulez y'a rien à voir, Ma femme s'appelle reviens and Les vécés étaient fermés de l'intérieur. Others got in on the act with Pour 100 briques t'as plus rien, Les hommes préfèrent les grosses, T'empêches tout le monde de dormir and other titles in a similar vein, though the number of syllables in the titles in no way guarantees the thoughtfulness of the end product.

As is the case for Viens chez moi, j'habite chez une copine, most of these films were based on plays, particularly plays which emerged from the often scattershot café-théâtre comic tradition that was such a key part of the post-1968 entertainment scene (and which launched the careers of actors like Josiane Balasko, Gérard Jugnot, Michel Blanc and Bernard Giraudeau, the latter pair featuring here). Leconte's film has little of the more outlandish humour that characterised his earliest film work - films like Les Bronzés - and he has also moved beyond the sketch-based nature of those previous films to construct a far more coherent narrative, albeit a fairly simple one that revolves around the friendship between two men and the put-upon woman who has to deal with the duo.

While in several of Leconte's other films (Tango or Tandem), women are a peripheral presence, here they occupy a more central place, but it's hardly an exalted status: Thérese Liotard's character is constantly picking up the pieces after her boyfriend (Giraudeau) and his staggeringly feckless friend (Blanc) screw up again and again, and at times you wish she'd just walk out and let the two of them get on with their lives. Blanc, though, is quite brilliant as Guy, almost completely oblivious to the chaos he brings in his wake, and yet so tremendously charming and cocksure that he's virtually impossible to dislike (Blanc mined a rich vein with characters like this, men so thoroughly blind to their own failings that there's a kind of beguiling quality to them in the end).

It's appealing, too, to find a Parisian film preoccupied with men and women who have to work each day, rather than people whose sources of income remain unclear: we frequently see the main characters at their jobs, while their precarious employment situations - an echo of the rough times that characterised the second half of the 1970s - are a constant refrain. While not attempting to take on the mantle of social realism, the film also provides the occasional glimpse into corners of the French capital not frequently seen - such as the (then relatively new, though far from loved) tower blocks of the 13th arrondissement.


Iconista said...

Merci - any advice on how to track down this film? - Lovefilm do their best but they must cater to the masses if we are to have them at all...

Gareth said...

I suspect the only way to see it is to get a French DVD, or to be naughty and download it, but I don't think the French DVD version has English subtitles; I benefit from a friend's huge collection of French DVDs.


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