Tuesday, September 09, 2008

La Fille de Monaco (The Girl From Monaco)

Bertrand Beauvois (Fabrice Luchini), is a lawyer who has arrived in Monaco to defend a rich widow (Stéphane Audran) on charges of murdering her young Russian lover. Hired by the widow's son, Bertrand is also assigned a bodyguard, Christophe (Roschdy Zem from Indigènes and Le Petit lieutenant) to protect him from the Russian's family during his stay. After giving an interview at the local TV station, Bertrand meets and is instantly entranced by the free-spirited weather girl, Audrey (Louise Bourgoin). The interest is returned, and what ensues is Bertrand getting more and more infatuated with Audrey and gradually losing more and more of his judgment and inhibitions. Lawyer, bodyguard, and even the widow, all have their own form of defenses which crumble and fall over the course of the film, turning it from just simply a light breezy comedy into something a bit deeper.

The festival description of La Fille de Monaco characterizes the film as a romantic comedy, but that's a bit of a misnomer and only covers one part of the story; I think it would be more accurate to term the film a dramatic comedy, instead. Fabrice Luchini gives a solid performance as Bertrand, a seducer by nature who despite that, is completely taken off guard by Audrey. Zem gives a subtle turn as the bodyguard, and Bourgoin handles the balance between being completely self-absorbed and still allowing one to see how someone might get completely absorbed with Audrey.

Director Anne Fontaine was present at the screening and did a Q&A (no spoilers):

  • Fontaine wrote the part for Luchini; they were involved when they were both young, and she wanted to write a part of a man who seduces women through the years.
  • She thought it would be better to have an unknown in the role of Audrey. Bourgoin was not an inspiration for the role (she was discovered through the casting process), but in real life she also did the weather on French TV for Canal+.
  • Zem has a very animal presence and magnetism, and is completely opposite to Luchini.
  • When you write, you are never clear, you discover what the possibilities are, and she thought it was interesting that the irony of the story lies with the lawyer being put on the other side of what he is used to. A laywer interprets the unhappiness of others but never experiences it himself.
  • Bourgoin has stopped doing her former job, although she does show up once a week on Canal+ to do a series of sketches, doing the same job as in the film.
  • The lawyer is an intellectual and fragile, and he expresses his sexuality through words.
  • The bodyguard nor Audrey are simple despite their vocabulary; Bertrand's vocabulary is a way of keeping himself apart from others and controlling the situation.
  • The Woman and the Puppet (La Femme et le pantin) by Pierre Louÿs was raised since it has similar themes; the story has been adapted several times in French cinema.
  • Fontaine went to a trial to get the language down, and worked with a former boydguard for Jacques Chirac. She spoke with Bourgoin on the aspects of TV, and on the character on not just being someone out to succeed, but also to be more ambiguous, moving, spontaneous and generous.

Q&A with spoilers:

  • The notion of transfer with the bodyguard led Fontaine to the dark and ironic ending.
  • Fontaine thinks that the moral in the story is that the lawyer, not in touch with his own emotions, is more human and understands something deeper in himself by the end.
  • There is a crossover between Bertrand and the widow at the end, where there roles are flipped.
  • The widow's smile to Bertrand at the end is a more twisted way for her to thank Bertrand than simply saying it.
  • When Fontaine showed the film to Prince Albert of Monaco, he joked that it's the only place you want to be in jail.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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