Alice Bergerac, a class call girl (Huppert) covets an antique bowl. A quick piece of calculation (how many blow jobs to meet the price) puts it in her range.
She’s not the only antique collector here. Married shrink Xavier (Bouli Lanners) another collector, calls Anne up on the advice of pal Dr. Cassagne they meet at a moment of change for each of them. Afraid of increasing violence, Alice wants to leave the oldest profession and find a secure life. Xavier’s shrink wife (Valerie Dreville) wants a divorce.
Jeanne Labrune (“Tomorrow’s Another Day”) reunites with her co-writer-actor Richard Debuisne. Debuisne plays psychiatrist Pierre Cassagne, who recommends Anne’s’ services to recently separated Xavier.
Like their previous film, the dramatic arc is shaky and the dialogue sparkles (although subtitles fail to capture the wit.) The tack they take is to compare the 50-minute hour and the call girl’s work: two professions aimed at a one on one service. Each professional, like Fonda’s remote Call girl in “Klute.” dispassionately turn their tricks, scorn their clients and fill their own pockets or rather add to their collections of serious antiques. Not a deep observation or a new one.
Xavier expects Anne to plug the holes in his emotional life and vice versa. Were the writers bolder, we might have reached Mamet, or better, Pinter territory but that’s not to be. There are flourishes reminiscent of Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” and even Bunuel, without the underlying philosophical structure. But hats off for trying.
As in the team’s earlier “C’est le bouquet!”(Special Delivery), in which a bouquet travels from one character to another, an object (In this case an antique) passes from hand to hand casing narrative ripples. Labrune was the scriptwriter for Roland Joffee’s splendid “Vatel”. If only this script was as much fun.
Frosty Anne, in plain clothes, meets recommended prospective clients to pitch her fees and services. From them on she roll-plays in heavy costumes; a 50’s housewife, a submissive, a dominatrix and a schoolgirl right out of Japanese Manga.
Unfortunately the script gives the brilliant Huppert (whose liberated perfs in films like Losey’s “La Truite” (The Trout), Chabrol’s “Une affaire de femmes” (Story of Women) and Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher”, set the bar for nuanced transgressive female characters) no depths to play with. She still conquers.
Sabila Moussadek is strong as Anne’s younger colleague and sometimes squeeze Juliette. Costume designer Claire Fraisse’s clever cosplay is one of the film’s charms.