ART FILM OF THE WEEK
In French, the title Les Valseuses is slang for testicles — fitting for this laugh riot of a farce that satirizes all that is bourgeoisie in society. Eye-popping characters Jean-Claude and Pierrot (played respectively by a star-turning, licentious Gerard Depardieu and a playfully lubricous Patrick Dewaere) embark on a road-movie/buddy-film delight. On a binge of madness from the get-go, the pair are often engaged in chasing and molesting innocent women, elevating the film’s fiendishly canny and subversive misogyny to an intentionally excessive height.
The boys also practice the art of auto theft, leading to the hilarity of Pierrot getting shot in the balls. The duo take hostage a young beautician named Marie-Ange (the absolutely stunning Miou-Miou) and trade her in for another vehicle.
Everything these two My Own Private Idaho-esque vagabonds find themselves embroiled in is for a laugh or a shock, living on the run from police for stirring up trouble wherever they go. Stealing a getaway ride on a train, Jean-Claude pays an attractive woman to breast-feed Pierrot. Yes, sexual harassment is definitely their forte.
At a certain moment in the film, there is an ambiguous hint that Jean-Claude has actually raped Pierrot, adding even more nonsense to their already over-the-top plight. Picking up Marie-Ange again, they attempt to give the harlot her first orgasm, but soon realize she is hopelessly frigid; she’s a whore for the monetary compensation only.
Marie yearns to be taught by these overly hairy hippies how to enjoy casual sex, but is too erratic in temperament. The men again ditch her after invading her “day job” for easy money. The film then slows its pace momentarily to introduce Jeanne Moreau (of Jules and Jim fame) who joins them in their off-beat quest of insanity. As peculiar as always, Moreau’s character (an older woman who has only recently been released from what appears to be a lifetime of prison) involves herself in a threesome with the men and then shoots herself with a gun she finds on the boys while they sleep.
Undergoing a period of grieving, the drifters get back with the icy love of Marie-Ange. Jacques, the son of the suicidal Moreau character, meets the trio upon being granted his own freedom from prison and is allowed dibs on Marie-Ange, finally succeeding—due to his awkward virginity—in giving her an orgasm. Still, newcomer Jacques is a criminal with a murderous instinct. Though Marie’s floodgates are now open and she can truly enjoy the freewheeling free love of her n’er-do-well buddies, the two knuckle-heads end up being wanted for a murder committed by Jacques.
Thus, after innumerable stolen getaway cars and more madcap farces, the film climaxes with the deflowering of none other than the notorious Isabelle Huppert as a 16-year-old rebellious teen. Earlier, the pair had sniffed her panties to determine her age when they had happened upon her house during a routine break-in.
Nothing is sacred in this fantastic musing on the lives of two abnormal minds coming together to pervert all with which they come in contact. Bertrand Blier, the director-writer (also the novelist of the book upon which the film is based), must take full responsibility for the transgressions of his performers. Yet, he is never heavy-handed or self-indulgent, always coming up with witty sight and sound gags that guarantee to make the audience roll with laughter, all the while cringing at the next set-up for a dirty joke. Think Jacques Tati meets Francis Veber and Eric Rohmer, with a twist of Gus Van Sant.