|Index||3 reviews in total|
I'm pretty sure there are just as many strippers in France as in
America, but they don't make nearly as many movies about them (I think
it might be the third biggest profession for women in Hollywood movies
after female cop and female lawyer). At least some of this might be the
less judgmental and more matter-of-fact way the French treat sex in
general. Stripping is just another profession and no big deal (and it's
part of the job of most French actresses anyway).
American stripper movies usually fall into two categories. There's the "feminist sturm-und-drang" movies where a sympathetic woman is forced to work as a stripper which inevitably--in itself--brings about a personal crisis, a lot of feminist soul-searching and drama until she eventually gives it up after becoming older and wiser. These films are often pretty light on the stripping so as not to be "exploitative". (Some are even made-for-TV movies). The second type are sexier but equally annoying. They're much more exploitative and exclusively aimed at males. They show some sexy young thing going through some kind of half-assed "personal liberation" as she learns to shed her clothes and her inhibitions and she eventually meets a great, respectful guy (which strip clubs are full of, of course)and lives happily ever after. Naturally, the emphasis here is on the STRIPPING and lap-dancing, and the actress involved (Elizabeth Berkely, for example) generally couldn't act her way out of a crisp paper sack.
This French movie is not great, but it's a pretty happy medium between these two. The protagonist's (Anne Azoulay) descent into stripper-dom is portrayed very matter-of-factly. She does it to provide for her senile grandmother and it's really just part of the mosaic of her life that--like with most strippers--is not necessarily going to lead to drugs and prostitution (although she does at one point find herself at a paid orgy). Mostly it just puts more stress on her as she also starts attending college and has a relationship with a man. The typical American response to this movie would be that it's boring and nothing really happens.True perhaps. But that's also realistic and refreshing in a way. There is nothing boring about Anne Azoulay's frequently nude body, but she is also a far better actress than most American actresses that play these kind of roles. She certainly has a more believable character.
The ending is very downbeat without a whole lot resolution, but that is realistic too. This is a very ADULT movie, not because the content is especially racy (aside from one LONG male-on-female oral sex scene), but because it is actually takes a mature and realistic look at a young woman who is going through some difficult times without offering any easy resolution.
I like to watch movies. All kinds of movies. I'm especially drawn to
alternative, independent, low-budget films where I don't know what to
expect and the actors/actresses are new to me. Often, those films turn
out to be very pleasantly surprising. Or surprisingly pleasant. It was
with this thinking that I chose to take a chance with "Lea". My
instinct failed me.
Rarely do I come across a protagonist so unsympathetic. The plot follows the struggle of a girl in her twenties, trying to make ends meet. A girl that lives with and looks after her grandmother, works as a waitress in a strip club and has high aspirations for her academic studies. Not sure if it's the lack of talent in the acting department or the lack of surprises in the storyline, but after a certain point I stopped caring if anything would happen to dear miss Lea. Good or bad.
The biggest surprise - if you can call it that - is that the waitress becomes a stripper. Other than that it's like watching a documentary on the daily life of a bored (and alas, boring) small town French girl. She seems to be unhappy in everything she gets involved with - her nightclub work, her morning studies, her relationship, the college parties she attends. Perhaps under a different director, with a different actress and a more intriguing plot, it could have been an in-depth case study of a provincial character. This film however does not allow us to get a glimpse inside the leading lady's mind. She's constantly troubled, yet it's impossible to identify with her. No explanations are given. A troubled childhood? Lack of compromise with society? Confused personality? The viewer needs strong reasons to sympathize with her pain but Anne Azoulay under the direction of Bruno Rolland gives us none. Null.
Léa is not just the "student stripper" suggested by the German title
and by some reviews. She is a sensitive girl, intelligent and
gracefully beautiful, who has obviously never had it easy. The scenario
does not waste time on background details, you can either forget about
them or imagine your own - really the film is about how Léa looks for
something which has been missing in her life. I watched it in three
sittings, as I found I needed to reflect a little on what I had seen
and what it meant for the protagonist (I use the singular because it is
no coincidence that the original title is just "Léa" - of the other
characters, only her grandmother really seems to matter).
A film which I will want to watch again.
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