Let's go back to 1975. Jean-François Davy had just managed to revive his down in the dumps film-making career with the scandalous EXHIBITION, a documentary on notorious porno actress Claudine Beccarie that shrewdly crossed the line into hardcore territory as a means of illustrating its subject, effectively making it the first explicit adult movie to play respectable Paris cinemas on the Champs Elysées rather than the grind-houses in the more disreputable parts of town. Prior to his porno baptism, Davy had strictly dabbled in soft-core with a series of naughty numbers, most successful of which being his strenuously linked triumvirate of BANANES MECANIQUES, PRENEZ LA QUEUE COMME TOUT LE MONDE and Q. Perhaps somewhat ill-advised, he returned to the simulated field now that audiences were expecting a more probing approach to sins of the flesh. As a result, LE DESIR (soon to be re-titled INFIDELITES but to little avail) died at the box office ; critics scratching their heads as to why the director turned his attentions anew to a genre they believed (somewhat prematurely) outdated. The recent French DVD release, as part of a beautifully re-mastered - albeit not subtitled, darn ! - box set, reveals a carefully thought out and surprisingly well-acted erotic melodrama, superbly shot by talented Roger Fellous (who would become one of Continental core's most sought after DoP's) and scored infectiously by Alain Reeves. Both men would return to work with the director repeatedly. Clearly, this movie deserved a far better fate than it has hereto suffered.
Scripted through collaborative efforts by Davy, his regular contributor Daniel Geldreich and André Ruellan, author of the fantasy novel "Le Seuil Du Vide" which the same director had filmed unsuccessfully, from a commercial viewpoint at least (inadvertently necessitating his turn-off down the dirty movie path), the film focuses on the marital woes of well to do Yves and Isabelle. He's handsome Gilles Millinaire, presumably cast on the strength of his appearance in Pierre Grimblat's anti-establishment satire SLOGAN. She's sad-eyed beauty Albane Navizet, the kindly Andrée so seemingly out of place at the Château of Roissy in Just Jaeckin's splendid adaptation of HISTOIRE D'O. One fateful night, they both confess to adulterous affairs they had several years ago, inspiring Isabelle's perverse, curiosity-driven idea to invite their former lovers to a garden party at their luxurious country home. While she fell for strong, silent artist Serge (hunky Pierre Oudrey, a soft porn regular who played the two-timing husband in Guy Casaril's terrific EMILIENNE), Yves had a fling with exuberant stage beauty Solange, an out of the blue witty turn by sophisticated Natacha Karenoff who had co-starred in Paul Vecchiali's Davy-produced CHANGE PAS DE MAIN. In a vain attempt to keep tension at bay, the couple also invites Yves' loyal secretary Thierry (dependable Jean Roche, the befuddled husband from Max Pécas' masterpiece FELICIA) and his longtime girlfriend Claire (classy Orlane Paquin, also in Michel Berkowitch's TAMARA OU COMMENT J'AI ENTERRE MA VIE DE JEUNE FILLE) to complement the guest list, the lot of them watched with a weary eye by the domestics. Prune, the cook, is charmingly played by cute comedienne Virginie Vignon so fondly remembered from Michel Lemoine's early '70s flicks like LES DESAXEES and LES CHIENNES. Rotund delivery boy Richard is portrayed by second string funny-man "Bouboule" a/k/a Alain Chevestrier, a regular from audience-pleasing if critic-alienating Michel Vocoret farces like LES BIDASSES AU PENSIONNAT and QU'EST-CE QUI FAIT CRAQUER LES FILLES. Rather improbably yet courageously, he's also the single male to go the full frontal route, in a strictly for laughs bedroom number with Vignon.
Surely out of date by the mid-'70s, the apple cart's upset by a trio of wandering hippies and the dangers of unapologetic free love they represent. Longhaired Franck, who's briefly allowed into Isabelle's knickers as thanks for watering the lawn (a decision she almost immediately regrets), is nicely played by one shot Yvan Jullien, actually a composer who did memorable work on Jean-Claude Missiaen's unjustly overlooked modern noir thrillers TIR GROUPE and RONDE DE NUIT. The girls on the other hand should be immediately recognizable to all dirty movie devotees of a certain age as the stunning Joëlle Coeur from Jean Rollin's DEMONIAQUES and Mona Mour from Cyrille Chardon's Davy-produced LA CHATTE SUR UN DOIGT BRULANT. While the first faded from view once hardcore became the norm, the latter would go on to pursue a successful legit acting career until this very day under her real name, Mona Heftre. This disparate group of characters will alternately attract and reject each other over the course of a single day and night. Alliances are made and subsequently broken with relationships hitting the skids but new ones perhaps already forming on the horizon. An open ending, which temporarily tricks you into believing it's heading towards a particularly moralizing conclusion, leaves us guessing as to the actual outcome. Davy's greatest achievement may be that he got us to care in the first place, creating a substantial set of fully rounded characters, helped by the uniformly talented cast, who shed their emotional armor as willingly as they do their clothes, marking the movie out as a solid adult drama that makes you think while it titillates with acres of foxy female flesh.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?