Thursday, January 24, 2013
"My Worst Nightmare": A French situation "black comedy"
“My Worst Nightmare” (“Mon pire cauchemar”, 2011, directed by Anne Fontaine) is a situation comedy (evoking retrospect of the sitcoms of the 1950s) and it is also a satire of modern (and may not so new) French culture and “civilization”, the way you studied it in high school French class.
Agathe (Isaebelle Huppert) is a mid-life wealthy art dealer living in a swanky Paris apartment with her proper husband, a sixty-something book publishing executive Francois (Andre Dussollier). There is a lot of culture but no physicality. Their tween son plays video games with a friend who happens to “belong” to single (and womanizing) homeless dad Patrick (Benoit Poelvoorde) who does contract construction work while living out of a truck. Child services wants to take Patrick’s son away and place him in a foster home. Patrick hires on to renovate the rich couple’s apartment. Pretty soon, the opportunities for “sin” and comedy mount.
The movie does present some real issues. One is “loose kids”. Social services in liberal welfare-oriented France get intrusive indeed. Big government – believe it! But the possible solution is obvious. The question is, will Agathe take on more responsibility, for other people’s kids, to get what she wants? Well, she has to know what she wants. I forgot to mention first, another issue is marital instability – which occurs twice. It’s odd that Francois announces that he is leaving, and thinks he is still potent enough for heterosexual passion with a woman who could be more nubile. Conservative writer George Gilder (“Men and Marriage”, 1986) would have fun with this one.
Another issue is the slight at the book publishing industry itself. Francois describes his job as acting as a gatekeeper of writers who think they have something to say (even by monitoring the book signing parties), when he know he doesn’t. There are some lines where “publishing” is confused with “printing” (like with abolitionist William Garrison in PBS’s recent series “The Abolitionists”). Perhaps Francois acts as a literary agent. But the whole world of “getting published” (and the need even for new authors to get agents) has been turned upside down by the Web and on-demand printing. The film, as a comedy, doesn’t get into that.
The museum art work also figures into the story. The credits name a tremendous list of paintings and sculptures, particularly by gay artist Robert Mapplethorpe, whose work inspired so much ire from social conservatives in the US (particularly when he tried to get NEA funding).
The official site is here. The availability date from Strand Releasing is Feb. 5, 2013.
I received a screener of this film.
There is a “review” of the short film “Mister Proof: How to Disappear” on my main “BillBoushka” blog yesterday, January 23.