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'The Girl'

'The Girl' is a tiresome gender bender

Friday, July 27, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

"The Girl" is a lesbian romance and a thespian tragedy.

Director Sande Zeig prefers "contemporary film noir" as a genre label, but we won't quibble. This lesbian-thespian film noir romantic tragedy, playing this weekend only at the Melwood, is set -- where else? -- in Paris.

 
 
'THE GIRL'

RATING: R for nudity and sexual themes

STARRING: Agathe de la Boulaye, Claire Keim, Cyril Lecomte, SandraN'Kake

DIRECTOR: Sande Zeig

Critic's call: 2 stars

   
 

There, an androgynous artiste known only as The Painter (Agathe de la Boulaye) falls in love with a sultry nightclub chanteuse known only as The Girl (Claire Keim), who has an after-hours clientele of hommes rather than femmes plus an involvement with a sinister man known only as The Man (Cyril Lecomte). Meanwhile, The Painter also has an homme, named Bu Save (Sandra N'Kake).

Don't let the gender discrepancy between actors' and characters' names confuse you. These Parisian demimondaines are harder to sex than gerbils. Suffice to say, both women have lovers of both genders but the hots for only each other.

Far butchier and more beautiful of the two is The Painter, who is also assigned the chore of being the Narrator. This involves much unintelligible mumbling of slow, moody internal monologue while walking slowly and moodily along the quai.

Far bitchier is the Girl, who croons slow, moody torch songs like "You Don't Know What Love Is" that dovetail into steamy bedroom scenes with the Painter, whom she repeatedly kicks out and into the erotic arms of Bu Save, another mumbler.

"Who cares?" and "Why not?" are the Painter's favorite words -- and among the few we can understand. I feel like the hard-of-hearing Countess Grandmother in Griboyedov's "Woe From Wit":

The Count: "On Chatsky's score, this outcry has arisen!"

The Countess: "Chatsky's whore was escorted out to prison?"

As soon as this is over, I'm making an appointment with the nearest audiologist for Zeig, myself or both of us. I'm willing to meet her halfway, perhaps in the Canary Islands.

Of course, we might be no better off catching than missing these ponderously "poetic" soliloquies, reminiscent of Alain Resnais' "Last Year at Marienbad" -- a film I am loath to remember yet memorably loathe. It's a style that stepped out of the French '50s-'60s New Wave, now an Old Ebb Tide.

Anyway, rough-stuff trouble starts when the Girl mysteriously leaves town with the Man, and the Painter starts packin' heat in an attempt to get to the bottom of it. My sympathies are with the Painter, not the Girl: Why doesn't she get rid of that crooner-hooker with a heart of cold and find herself a more lesbian-friendly Girl (and better reclining-nude oil subject)?

But she won't listen to me. And by the time she walks moodily along the Seine for the last time, my mood has become more noir than the movie.

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