The Girl

Adapted from a short story by French-born feminist literary theorist Monique Wittig and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Sande Zeig, this stylish trifle is almost crushed by the weight of its ideological underpinnings. Wittig has written frequently about the need to reinvent language in order to free perceptions of gender and sexuality from heterosexist...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Adapted from a short story by French-born feminist literary theorist Monique Wittig and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Sande Zeig, this stylish trifle is almost crushed by the weight of its ideological underpinnings. Wittig has written frequently about the need to reinvent language in order to free perceptions of gender and sexuality from heterosexist social constructs, and this intensely self-aware film seeks to reinvent classic film noir iconography, starting with the smoke-wreathed opening credits. Unfortunately, the result is little more than a glossy parlor trick, a stripped-to-the-bone Of Human Bondage recast with two women. The plot is simplicity itself: A Parisian art student (Agathe de la Boulaye, who wears men's clothing better than anyone since Marlene Dietrich transformed the tuxedo into a fashion statement) falls desperately in love with a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer (Claire Keim), whose chicly alienated song list is a window onto her hard-bitten attitudes about love. "I don't usually do it with a woman," the singer declares after their first night together, but they immerse themselves in a torrid affair anyway. The painter nicknames the nameless singer "Agnes Dee," a heavily symbolic play on the Latin term agnus dei, the "Lamb of God." The singer in turn calls the painter simply "Lover," perhaps because her narrative function far outweighs her character traits, or perhaps because the singer is a no-nonsense kind of girl who sees the world in terms of users and people who are used, and who's perfectly okay with that. Trouble rears its head in the form of Agnes' brutal lover (Cyril Lecomte), who owns the nightclub where she sings and figures he owns her as well. There are threats, then violence; when a gun enters the picture, it's clear that this relationship will end badly for someone. Though filmed in English, this neo-noir bagatelle is oh-so-French in the worst sense of that term — a layer of chi-chi over a self-referential narrative and superficially profound dialogue, interspersed with the kind of arty sex scenes that once drew horny boys to continental art films. "'Who cares?' and 'Why not?' are her favorite expressions," muses Lover thoughtfully, as she paces the picturesque Parisian streets. Right, and who cares?

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Adapted from a short story by French-born feminist literary theorist Monique Wittig and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Sande Zeig, this stylish trifle is almost crushed by the weight of its ideological underpinnings. Wittig has written frequently… (more)

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