Bertrand Blier

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Bertrand Blier

#26 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Mar 09, 2022 9:06 pm

tojoed wrote:
Wed Feb 09, 2022 4:15 pm
TWBB, I'd very much like to hear your take on "Mon Homme", if you get the chance.
I thought this was an uneven work overall, but one where the present strengths were riskier and more thought-provoking than most of Blier's oeuvre. On one hand, the film is a fascinating exercise in exploring the enigmatic nature of desired power dynamics in sexual relationships, with a lot of respect to the BDSM community. Anouk Grinberg is sensational as a prostitute who enjoys her work for seemingly-paradoxical but perfectly congruous reasons, in a) giving pleasure to men in a submissive way that cultivates a rare nonmaterial reciprocity in self-actualization around identity needs, rather than for the material gains of money, and b) more idiosyncratically, how she, as a 'dirty' woman of the streets, can take a gently dominant role in contractual exchanges with 'normal' socioeconomically-secure men, serving as a guiding key to fulfill their dreams before taking on that subservient role. She then meets a homeless man, dirtier and superficially 'lesser' compared to her 'lowly' status, and in caring for him she immediately falls in love and looks to cast him into an extremely dominant position and be entirely submissive to his will. The way this plays out is both absurdist in the agility of the manner the relationship takes shape, and incredibly realistic to how one's sexual preferences around roles, in accessing freedom from either power or containment, formulate based on extremes in dissonant qualifiers. The humiliation she seeks is so clearly aimed at affection, as he unlocks a melding of her gently-dominant part -aimed at guiding men into new experiences- and her preferably-submissive positioning as a partner being contained safely and supportively by a more dominant, controlling and loving figure.

Perhaps less progressively fastened in step with a sadomasochism community is Blier's subsequent focus on the perverse assumption that these power dynamics are gendered in nature. The satire isn't mean-spirited, but rather unconditionally supports liberation of one's desires if social constructs that bar engagement with those parts are stripped away. Blier uses the idea that all women have a submissive part of them that wants to be sexualized and valued as such (in a heteronormative world) to makes his point, and in doing so irreverently gifts the women in the film with the freedom to achieve a deeper level of intimacy with themselves and others. I think there's something potently honest about Blier's broad ethos here- even if it doesn't necessarily pertain equitably to a similar fetish across the board. Metaphorically, we all have aspects of our inner core that cannot be explained away nor should they be, and just 'are', and the playful nature of social dynamics- themselves built upon mistrust and unknowability- when traversed by leaning into the exciting and frightening actions of initiated trust toward cultivating shared knowledge, can ascend these barriers and give way to cavernous harmony. Does Grinberg fall for Lanvin with such immediacy because of some magical energy, or because his lowly status makes this obstacle of giving oneself onto another more transparent, an affinity of circumstances and needs more communal? This doesn't affect the power she allots him, but it does affect the smoothness by which she can lower her defenses to do so- in a way she has not been able to do, yet has desperately wanted to, with every suitor she's seen, maybe ever.

The film would be interesting enough if it kept its attention on the women, but I appreciated how Blier explored Lanvin's complex characterization as a representation of men processing their own internal states around an expected position of "dominance." Lanvin is torn between actualizing his split 'masculine' parts of uninhibited aggression -or the desire to be in command and own another person as their submissive- and the tenderness (seemingly) incongruous with such a rigidly dominant state. The film's thorough exploration is conscientious to these relationships in BDSM groups because finding this balance is complicated, nebulous, and challenging to figure out solitarily, let alone collectively around shared needs, which is necessary for it to 'work' at all for the goal of mutual satisfaction. There seems to be a presence of 'switching' as a necessary function in all of these developments; of the submissive having a dominant say in their role, and vice versa. I love how Blier doesn't attempt to overstate any theories but allows the material to remain fluidly in the service of any 'normal' rom-com's (and real life relationship's) messy adventure towards romance. The Barry White populating the soundtrack, always the music of choice for the characters, signals the intent behind all of this exploration: These characters want the others to feel good, in part because their submissive/dominant counterparts make them feel good. Conscientious, empathetic, and service-oriented social behavior spawns reciprocal behavior. It's an incredibly mature film that pares back its heady ideas to pitch a very Bogdanovich-y optimism toward the essence of psychosexual desire in a social environment.

Ultimately the narrative takes a frustrating detour away from the central pairing that made the content so rich, spilling into a lazy and slim story at odds with the finely-detailed first half. It's so weakly-formed that I'm not even sure what to make of it, but there's an unearned growth orbiting Grinberg's life following a wild jump to a new man. This move leads to a firmly-sewn explanation of what the movie is 'about' in basic terms, though it doesn't need Grinberg's arc to hammer the audience into submission (ah) over its spell. It's a film about needing and being needed, and all the murky sludge coating treasures under the iceberg of that surface-level declaration; but it's Lanvin's third-act ignition, pairing with the woman who waits for released prisoners, that gives such pronouncement to miniscule encounters between strangers finding the beginning fibers of that dynamic to string together. Their brief time together speaks volumes to the esoteric power in the energy between two people, weighing the absurdity with the naked truth within the absurdism together as one. Masochism and love unite on levels that are universally understood through the grammar of cinema and genre schemas.

The final apology to "women" is confounding: Does it negate all we've seen that brings people together, working in favor of a validation for the difficulty in connecting and sustaining a connection of trust, one that is so vulnerable with so much at stake, that when broken demands a life change? Or is it Blier apologizing to women who see his filmography as demeaning when he's really been intending to celebrate their sex above men all along? Is he apologizing for this film, sincerely, cheekily, or a bit of both? I'm compelled to opt for a reading that extrapolates Lanvin's dithering duality of impulses and intent, related to his needs involving intimate socialization with women, onto Blier's own stance in his films. He doesn't know exactly why he has crafted the outlook of behaviors he has, just as Lanvin is tormented and confused himself, but at least he's tried to be authentic to what his internal drives creatively produce. The apology works as an admission that art, when whittled down to a theory, can be weaponized. Blier has never attempted to analyze his own work, allowing the indistinct signifiers to exist independently, but those still have consequences.

I don't know. Maybe he's just being masochistic himself in a final denouement, ready to take his punishment with glee for whatever one wants to punish him for. Maybe it's Lanvin's (or "men's") turn to be submissive, and maybe that's a part of him that's wanted to be liberated from this burden of dominating all along. In that sense, maybe this masochism is actually an empowerment for men to become liberated like the women were, and Blier is just reinforcing claims of misogyny. It's probably all and none of these things and more and less, because Blier doesn't explain his work, doesn't understand himself the blurry lines that drive us or his art, and just puts it out there. Sure is fun to think about, feel for, and engage with, though.

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domino harvey
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Re: Bertrand Blier

#27 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:00 pm

Did not discover until the end credits that Blier gave Michel Blanc the story idea for his film, Grosse fatigue (1994), but the thought had already occurred to me more than once that Blanc clearly took some notes from his work with Blier. This movie takes self-deprecation into the realm of masochism as Blanc presents us with an unrepentantly unpleasant version of himself-- within the first ten minutes alone, Blanc charges his room service to Gerard Depardieu, judges a breast contest at a strip club, tries to rape Mathilda May (reasoning "You're Mathilda May!"), and does the same to Charlotte Gainsbourg before stealing from her purse. As you can tell, there are a lot of cameos here, and the two best as saved for the end and I would strongly urge no one watching to spoil them beforehand by looking at a cast list. But as enjoyable as the first act is, this kind of in-jokey inside baseball movie industry farce seems unsustainable at feature length. However, as the joke starts to wear a bit thin, the very odd high concept comes in, which I'd also never spoil, except to say it takes no stretch to see Blier's fingerprints in it and it finally explains how Gerard Depardieu made so many movies in the early 90s!

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domino harvey
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Re: Bertrand Blier

#28 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 21, 2022 7:51 pm

Looking up Grosse fatigue, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Blanc actually won Best Screenplay at Cannes for the film-- the same year Pulp Fiction won the top prize and Clint Eastwood headed the jury! Surprisingly Eastwood and Catherine Deneuve were the only actors on the jury, so I guess it had support beyond the most obvious branch that would get a kick out of the high concept

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swo17
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Re: Bertrand Blier

#29 Post by swo17 » Thu Jun 23, 2022 1:18 am

Grosse fatigue was hilarious. Does the Gaumont Blu-ray have English subtitles like Amazon suggests? Unfortunately even the cover of that release spoils one of the "cameos" I think you're referencing, because that person happens to have third billing!

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tenia
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Re: Bertrand Blier

#30 Post by tenia » Thu Jun 23, 2022 1:29 pm

I can confirm the Gaumont BD release of Grosse fatigue has English subs on the main feature.

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swo17
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Re: Bertrand Blier

#31 Post by swo17 » Thu Jun 23, 2022 1:50 pm

Sweet, thanks!

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L.A.
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Re: Bertrand Blier

#32 Post by L.A. » Mon Jun 27, 2022 1:33 pm

swo17 wrote:
Thu Jun 23, 2022 1:18 am
Grosse fatigue was hilarious. Does the Gaumont Blu-ray have English subtitles like Amazon suggests? Unfortunately even the cover of that release spoils one of the "cameos" I think you're referencing, because that person happens to have third billing!
Haven’t used my 10€ off coupon at Amazon.fr (valid June 30th), guess I’ll take this and La Femme rêvée (1929) at least.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Bertrand Blier

#33 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 27, 2022 1:45 pm

I watched it last night, and it is indeed very funny and intelligent. I love how the film obfuscates its central conceit to the audience and its protagonist/writer/director in equitable measures, which we don't realize until a certain point. In that respect, it's like a Charlie Kaufman movie (especially his last one) in expressing his doubts and confusions over the material of his own life externalized into the medium's grammar.

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