Monday, 31 January 2011

Bertrand Blier retrospective

Like many other film fans, I suspect, I gave up on the work of Bertrand Blier 20 years ago with his Nazi-AIDS provocation Merci la vie, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Anouk Grinberg (pictured). It could be said to have served as a precursor for the more cynical cinema of Gaspar Noé and Virginie Despentes' Baise-Moi a decade later. I'm not sure how Merci stands up now - Londoners will have a chance to see for themselves in a Blier retrospective at the Ciné Lumiere from 1-6 February.

The season runs alongside an exclusive run of the 71-year-old's latest, The Clink of Ice, about an alcoholic writer who is visited by his cancer in human form. Like the director's most famous film, Trop belle pour toi (1989) - in which a car dealer deserts trophy wife Carole Bouquet for the less obvious charms of Josianne Balasko - what could play as an extended bad joke includes several surprises that keep it in the mind.

Blier first came to attention with freewheeling Les valseuses (1974), starring Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere as a pair of hoodlums who hook up with Miou-Miou. Notably, it also features Jeanne Moreau as a recently released prisoner, a very early appearance from Isabelle Huppert, and a score by Stéphane Grappelli.

Blier has worked with Depardieu eight times, including Buffet froid (1979), which also stars Blier's father Bernard; my favourite, Tenue de soirée (1986), again with Miou-Miou and Michel Blanc, who ends up as the butt of the director's scenario when Depardieu, as a bisexual petty thief, seduces him and his wife, and Trop belle pour toi, which scooped five Césars and won Blier the grand jury prize at Cannes.

Blier won the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 1979 for another film starring Depardieu and Dewaere in an uncomfortable ménage-à-trois, Préparez vos mouchoirs. The other film I haven't seen in the programme is Mon homme (1996), which features the combined talents of Anouk Grinberg, Gérard Lanvin, Olivier Martinez, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Mathieu Kassovitz and Jean-Pierre Léaud. It may be worth taking the afternoon off.

PS In the capital's increasingly busy literary events calendar do keep an eye on the Institut francais' impressive French Passions series, which was kicked off by Will Self discussing Montaigne and continues this Thursday with Alain de Botton on Stendhal. Future instalments include Posy Simmonds (Flaubert) and Tom McCarthy (Robbe-Grillet).

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