France/Germany | 2010 | Dir. Mathieu Amalric | 111 mins.
In his first film as director, the actor Mathieu Amalric (The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly) plays a Parisian TV producer intent on touring an American burlesque troupe through the south of France. He picked them up somehow (it’s never fully explained) while he was in the US, and for at least the film’s first half they have a ball of a time bringing their risqué antics to French audiences. As well as juggling the excitable gaggle of curvaceous, ageing but bubbly women, he has some off-stage problems to deal with involving his semi-estranged wife and his agitated adolescent sons. Trying to be all things to all people—and attempting to whisk the limelight away from the front-and-centre troupe, not to mention fending off (and then reluctantly caving-in to) the advances of the lead dancer, Mimi le Meaux—is his downfall.
Though there are fleeting references to films such as 8½, there’s nothing particularly special about Amalric’s direction—for its first twenty minutes, the film looks outright un-cinematic (but not in a good way), and the only thing that really shines at any point is some of the director’s acting. The troupe are all played by actual burlesque dancers; none of them acts particularly well, but the loose, free style of much of the film suggests that the script—penned by Amalric and four other writers—was perhaps purposefully patchy to allow for improvisation and other spur-of-the-moment freewheeling, bits of which are interesting. At film’s end the narrative seems to abandon the characters entirely, leaving them right when we’ve grown to like (or at least put up with) most of them—and are genuinely curious about their next step.