Jean-François Davy's first foray into skin flick territory proves a considerably more accomplished endeavor than its underwhelming reputation would have it. A somewhat stale marital drama enlivened by heavy doses of extra-curricular sex, LA DEBAUCHE tells of a young Parisian couple whose relationship is suffering because of their financial woes.
Pierre (handsome Philippe Gasté, who was to become the star of Davy's subsequent "trilogie paillarde" : BANANES MECANIQUES, PRENEZ LA QUEUE COMME TOUT LE MONDE and Q) is a free-lance glamor photographer who always has to hassle his penny-pinching employer just to get paid while his bored spouse Françoise (lovely Karine Jeantet, a supporting actress in both Daniel Daert's LE VOYAGEUR and François Jouffa's envelope-pushing LA BONZESSE) stays home all day, trying to keep up a semblance of housekeeping. A former model who has apparently done well for herself, Sylvie (seductively smoldering Denyse Roland a/k/a "Eva Stroll" from Max Pécas' now almost touchingly dated CLUB PRIVE POUR COUPLES AVERTIS), makes a pass at Pierre and invites him to her house in the country for the weekend. Claiming an assignment to his unsuspecting spouse, he decides to take her up on it, only to learn that she too is married to the very open-minded Michel (future soft & hard porn filmmaker Michel Lemoine, spicing up dull proceedings with a welcome touch of insouciant depravity) who even brings them breakfast in bed after a night of unbridled passion ! As a lark, perhaps deciding that turnabout is fair play, Michel travels to Paris to console the lonely housewife, luring her into a threesome with a casual pick-up (gorgeous Ursule Pauly, who was in Jean Rollin's baroque LA VAMPIRE NUE and Jacques Scandelari's decidedly offbeat LA PHILOSOPHIE DANS LE BOUDOIR). Soon disenchanted with his new mistress, Pierre rushes home to find his wife and both paramours in the aftermath of ecstasy.
The latter part of the movie is a truly remarkable 20 minute sequence, clearly patterned on '60s Godard (Davy admits as much in a candid interview included on the excellent French DVD), consisting of Pierre and Françoise aimlessly trawling through the streets of Paris with special attention paid to Sin Central, the notorious Place Pigalle, surrounded by peep shows and porno theaters in search of one another, frequenting the same locations, but at different times, even briefly making contact with some of the same denizens of the night. While totally predictable, the narrative narrowly avoids cliché by being set among characters struggling to make ends meet rather than the idle rich who tend to be the genre's usual focal point.
Gasté (here without his trademark mustache) makes for a likable lead, even when almost casually betraying his spouse, with Jeantet managing the not inconsiderable feat of remaining quite appealing even while nagging and generally acting obnoxious. Camera man Philippe Théaudière grants her the kind of caressing close-ups by the way most actresses would kill for, memorably a haunting and intricately composed shot of her stunning eyes through a reflecting window. Sex scenes are surprisingly graphic for a soft-core effort of this respectable vintage, especially the sweltering Gasté/Roland footage where the heat is most definitely not provided by the crackling fireplace in the background ! Simulation siren Alice Arno, billed under her real name of Marie-France Broquet (who would rise to prominence with Claude Pierson's JUSTINE the following year as well as numerous Jess Franco films), appears fleetingly as one of the girls Michel picks up for Pierre's "welcoming" party. She also did a completely gratuitous but lengthy lesbian number snipped prior to release yet included on the disc as a most welcome extra. Another definite plus is the groovy score supplied by Pierre Raph, who wrote soundtracks for several early Jean Rollin movies including REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE and LA ROSE DE FER.
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