The third and final installment in mysterious Martin Cognito's "female trilogy", succeeding the sulfurous CLAUDINE and the relentlessly downbeat AXELLE, was shot over an exceptionally well-organized 3 day period in 2003 while current French President Sarkozy was still just the controversial Mayor of Paris. It presents us with a cautionary tale of just what might happen to our personal freedom if this much-maligned yet apparently sufficiently popular right-wing politician were to become the most powerful man in France which is, of course, exactly what has transpired as of this writing in 2007 !
Society proves to have changed drastically when prostitute Virginie (engagingly portrayed by Nolwenn, who had a small part in CLAUDINE) inadvertently wakes up from a coma in the year 2008, confined to a hospital bed in a rural Château. Stumbling down the corridor, she witnesses her old friend Isabelle (the radiant Tiffany Hopkins from Yannick Perrin's sparkling LES PARISIENNES), her beautiful body now conspicuously disfigured by the branded number 2, taking on customer Manu Ferrara, the memorable anti-hero from Gérard Grégory's stylish Absolute SEX, before losing consciousness again. It turns out that over the past 5 years, President Sarkozy has systematically cleared the streets of Paris of all sex workers by imprisoning them in large mansions cum whorehouses, not just allowing but actively forcing them to perform their professional duties out of view of all "good" citizens. A pair of seemingly sympathetic restaurateurs who used to own the little bistro across from Virginie's erstwhile street corner (superbly played by former French "Golden Age" icons Alban Ceray and Piotr Stanislas) now run the brothel with the proverbial iron fist in velvet glove. Their literal "Number 1 Girl" (as per the branded number on her chest) Mélanie, surprisingly well-acted by lovely Mélanie Coste who starred in Angela Tiger's exquisite PARFUM DU DESIR, explains the drill while Virginie is branded with the number 7 and taken to meet her co-workers, one of whom is male (gay porn performer Pascal Bruno as Gérard/Number 3). Initially compliant, Virginie quietly rallies her colleagues in an attempted revolt against the powers that be
Cognito, an alleged mainstream French filmmaker whose identity was a well-guarded secret (Gaspard Noë and Jean-Jacques Beineix were strong possibilities), planned to quit the adult industry after these three movies, hence the symbolic "burial" of "Martin Cognito" that's included as an easter egg on the DVD. He has since been quite accidentally revealed - hunted down by his ex-wife's lawyers in an attempt to extract long overdue alimony payments ! - as former well-regarded Parisian graphic designer and short film director Jean-François Chiron. Production company Colmax has announced his return in the course of 2007 with a film based on the life of the Marquis De Sade. Be that as it may, the timely and surprisingly subversive VIRGINIE should prove an extremely tough act to follow. From its incisive screenplay down to George Grosson's superlative soundtrack and startlingly atmospheric cinematography by veteran camera wizard François About (who shot such classic French fornication flicks like Claude Mulot's LA FEMME-OBJET and Francis Leroi's PETITES FILLES AU BORDEL), this provides an attention to detail in the realization of a director's vision unequaled in Continental 'core since the days of Mulot and company's MES NUITS AVEC
Some very strong sex scenes merely perpetuate and complement the very high quality of the film-making, especially an intricate set-up that finds three separate encounters playing out simultaneously. While sad-eyed Laura Angel satisfies momma's boy Hervé-Pierre Gustave in one room and Pascal makes love to handsome William Le Bris (so, yes, there's a gay sex scene and it's a real scorcher !) in another, Mélanie and Manu try to entice Nolwenn into participating in the corridor between. Flawless editing turn this whole incredible sequence into one of the most erotically accomplished in recent memory, and trust me, the rest is rarely more than a tad behind. If there's to be a downside, it's probably the occasionally uncertain acting by Nolwenn not quite in the same league as CLAUDINE's Ovidie or AXELLE's Lilith whose big "call to arms" speech falls a little flat.
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