This French sex comedy from actor-turned-director Michel Blanc
) had audiences in francophone Montreal chuckling from start to finish.
Jettisoning plot in favor of exploring a network of differing relationships, Blanc uses crisp dialogue to pilot a lighthearted trawl through the infidelities of the French middle class. As dramatic as it humorous, this film certainly should hit with sophisticated audiences who've been around long enough to laugh at life's myriad imperfections, inconsistencies and contradictions. See How They Run
(Embrassez qui vous voudrez) received its world premiere out of competition here in Montreal.
The slimline story revolves around a group of competitive pals taking a well-needed summer vacation. The slightly snobby Elisabeth (Charlotte Rampling
) takes off for the beach, leaving her caring but philandering husband Bertrand (Jacques Dutronc
) behind. At the hotel with man-hungry friend Julie, Elisabeth runs into her downwardly mobile neighbors Vero and Jerome, who are so broke they're holidaying in a trailer park. The women are soon joined by the glamorous Lulu (Carole Bouquet
), who's having trouble with her violently possessive lover, played by Blanc. The resulting entanglements gradually intermingle to illustrate the proverbial tangled web of life.
This film's verbal humor is a cracking barrage of parry and thrust. The girl talk is especially feisty, with Lulu and Elisabeth wondering what it's like to "come all over the place and orgasm like a man" and Vero adding that she'd settle for knowing what it's like to orgasm as a woman. But there's far more going on here than just comedy. The jokes are Blanc's way of bringing out the drama.See How They Run
is a compassionate film that likes its characters in spite of their many peccadilloes. It's not easy to be happy, asserts director Blanc, and there's nothing wrong with telling a big white lie if it helps everyone get through the day. Husband Bertrand is a master of all this domestic duplicity, having an affair with both his wife's friend Julie and his shy transsexual housekeeper. Bertrand's advice that life is hard and you just have to "ziz-zag your way through it" is at the core of the film.
Rampling's performance is multidimensional -- at once haughty and vulnerable. As Elisabeth, she conceals her anguish at Bertrand's detached attitude toward their marriage and decides that it isn't necessarily a rejection of her. Dutronc plays it with mild amusement -- a man so comfortable with his secretive way of life that he feels no guilt about it. Blanc the actor adds some physical humor, continually searching for wife Lulu's suspected lover and always punishing the wrong man.
Blanc finds the hidden undercurrents in these relationships and pushes them up to the surface. It's testament to his skill as a comic and dramatist that he can use humor to bring to light such deep and human duplicities without ever appearing crude or crass.
SEE HOW THEY RUN
Director-writer: Michel Blanc
Based on the novel "Summer Things" by: Joseph Connolly
Producer: Yves Marmion
Co-producers: Julie Baines
, Franco Vincenzo Porcelli
Director of photography: Sean Bobbit
Production designer: Benoit Barouh
Costume designer: Oliver Beriot
Editor: Marilyn Monthieux
Music: Mark Russell
Elisabeth: Charlotte Rampling
Bertrand: Jacques Dutronc
Lulu: Carole Bouquet
Jean-Pierre: Michel Blanc
Running time -- 103 minutes
No MPAA rating