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Nathalie is the name a Parisian prostitute assumes for a special mission or "private investigation." She is engaged in this unusual and secretive task by a professional, upper-middle-class wife who fears that her husband is unfaithful to her. Nathalie has to seduce the clueless husband and regularly report all details of her relationship with him, including his most intimate sexual preferences in bed. Nathalie is stunning, charming, and cunning. Can Nathalie and her reports to the mistrustful wife be trusted? Is the middle aged husband indeed unfaithful? Written by
luiza do brasil
The profound alchemy between two consummate actresses.
The other night I watched two films, Michel Deville's Le Voyage en Douce (1980) and Anne Fontaine's Nathalie (2003). It was a felicitous, though accidental, pairing. Both films negotiate the complex, often hazardous subject of eroticism between women, straight women. In such films, the pairing of the actresses is absolutely crucial, and in this respect, Fontaine was more fortunate than Deville. In Nathalie, Fanny Ardant and Emmanuelle Béart have what Fontaine called a profound alchemy. The film veritably sizzles from the first encounter of the two women in a brothel to the final affirmation of their friendship.
Nathalie's plot line is rather cheesy a woman (Ardant) finds out her husband (Gerard Depardieu in a beautifully muted role) is cheating on her. She hires a prostitute (Béart) to seduce her husband and after wards to relate every detail of their encounters to her. The hooker, Marlène, whom the wife renames Nathalie, accepts. And thus begins the film's depiction of sex by proxy. Nathalie's descriptions of sex with the husband reminded me of the superbly erotic scene in Bergman's Persona when the nurse relates her seduction of a boy on the beach. And as with Persona, this film heavily depends for its force on the subtleties and shadings in the acting of the three principals.
As always, Ardant commands our full attention. Her Catherine is beautiful, elegantly at ease, aloof. Béart's Nathalie is a kind of counterforce to Catherine. Her long sluttish blonde hair falls over her bruised blue eyes, both to conceal and to allow her a wary sideways glance at the world. She is tough and watchful, rarely does she smile. But as the story progresses, a startled softness in her eyes begins to submerge the cold indifference of the professional.
The first encounter between the two women sets the tone: in a garishly crimson bar of a Paris brothel, a somewhat apprehensive Catherine sits bolt upright on a leather sofa, looking decidedly out of place. When Marlène approaches her, Catherine is relieved and grateful. Marlène, for her part, is assured and even gentle with Catherine, though she doesn't quite know what to make of her. She knows how to talk to johns, but an elegant, educated woman is of a different order of magnitude. Catherine soon relaxes into a confiding, pleasurable intrigue with the hooker, and the bargain is struck. The erotic undercurrent is palpable.
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