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‘Mon Homme’ Celebrates a Life of Taking Chances

TIMES STAFF WRITER

That formidable fabulist, French writer-director Bertrand Blier, returns with “Mon Homme,” one of his finest films, even arguably his best.

For nearly 25 years, starting with “Going Places,” Blier has been fascinated with the twists and turns of human behavior, with the mercurial relationships between men and women and with what happens to individuals who have the courage to act on their impulses and follow their hearts.

“I like money. I like men. I like selling dreams,” says Anouk Grinberg’s beautiful, petite Marie, the happiest of hookers. “A man is never ugly if you look at him right.”

Arriving home late one night, she comes across a whiskered man in ragged clothing huddled at the bottom of the staircase leading to her small but charming garret apartment. He asks for spare change. She has none but offers him food, shelter and finally herself.

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Beneath the layers of clothes and the bushy beard we can see that no one could consider him ugly. But Marie, in her risky act of compassion--and in her unabashed passion for men, sex and love--has been rewarded beyond her own wildest dreams. The homeless man, whose name is Jeannot (Gerard Lanvin), proves to be a virile, well-built man whose sexual prowess carries the highly experienced Marie to new heights of ecstasy. Think of a Gallic Robert Mitchum.

Their love scene is one of searing intensity, and Blier presents it with the utmost seriousness. To suggest that their lovemaking is a profoundly rapturous experience for Marie and Jeannot, Blier selected for musical accompaniment excerpts from the elegiac music of Henryk Mikolaji Gorecki, explaining that “eroticism is always linked to liturgy.” That his other music of choice is a selection of Barry White songs suggests the wide range of shifting tones that Blier manages with his usual dexterity. (When “Mon Homme” goes into second runs, some enterprising exhibitor surely will book it with “Love Serenade,” which also features White songs and an unorthodox take on men and women.)

Marie suggests that Jeannot become her pimp, but he can’t resist also turning out his pretty manicurist, whom he calls Tangerine (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) as well. But Blier goes way beyond the familiar squaring away of the eternal triangle to create a modern odyssey of Marie and Jeannot pursuing their respective destinies.

Security is an illusion, suggests Blier, so you might as well take your chances in life as in love. There is the sense in this superb picture that life rewards, though not necessarily in material riches, those who disregard convention. It’s not too much to say that Marie is a contemporary Candide.

Blier inspires his actors to carry off dizzying changes of moods, attitudes and emotions, often within a single scene. His stars, including Olivier Martinez as another key man in Marie’s life, dazzle, and Mathieu Kassowitz, Michel Galabru and Jean-Pierre Leaud are among the well-known actors who make deft cameo appearances as Marie’s clients. There’s a delightful special appearance by Sabine Azema.

“Mon Homme” finds a master storyteller and modern moralist at the top of his form.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: The film includes discreet but exceptionally passionate lovemaking, some nudity, complex adult themes.

‘Mon Homme’

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Anouk Grinberg: Marie

Gerard Lanvin: Jeannot

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi: Tangerine

Oliver Martinez: Jean-Francois

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An Artificial Eye release of co-production of Les Films Alain Sarde/Plateau A/Studio Images 2 with the participation of Canal Plus. Writer-director Bertrand Blier. Producer Alain Sarde. Cinematographer Pierre Lhomme. Editor Claudine Merlin. Costumes Christian Gasc. Songs by Barry White, selected works of Henryk Mikolaji Gorecki. Set designers Willy Holt, Georges Glon. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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* Exclusively at the Westside Pavilion, 10800 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 475-0202, and the Town Center 4, Bristol at Anton, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, (714) 751-4184.


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