Bertrand Blier's wry serio-comedy TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR YOU is a love triangle with some unexpected angles. Depardieu, a stolid bourgeois, has made a success of his life, with a thriving business, two bright children, and a surpassingly beautiful, upper-class wife (Bouquet). Into this life comes a stout and no longer young secretary (Balasko) with whom he falls...read more
Bertrand Blier's wry serio-comedy TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR YOU is a love triangle with some unexpected angles. Depardieu, a stolid bourgeois, has made a success of his life, with a thriving business, two bright children, and a surpassingly beautiful, upper-class wife (Bouquet). Into this life
comes a stout and no longer young secretary (Balasko) with whom he falls recklessly in love. Electrified with passion, he finds himself in a continual state of sexual excitement in which the woman who should be his wife is his mistress and vice versa. Starting from this topsy-turvy turn of events,
Blier (director of GOING PLACES; GET OUT YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS; and the irresistibly wacky MENAGE) fashions a droll and often surreal comedy of manners. TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR YOU is a bedroom farce played in slow motion, however; there is a melancholy undertone to the ironic adultery taking place beneath
The early scenes, establishing the growing attraction between the beefy boss and his plump secretary-seductress, are the film's most successful. Although Depardieu and his stunning spouse are the envy of their friends, the picture-perfect Bouquet senses trouble in paradise. Dropping by Depardieu's
office unexpectedly, Bouquet is relieved to discover that her husband's office temp is a nonthreatening frump. Depardieu, however, is unable to curb his animal lust and begins absenting himself from hearth and home often enough to reawaken Bouquet's suspicion, a reversal that is also the impetus
of a fantasy sequence in which Bouquet appears as Balasko's bedraggled neighbor, who has been abandoned by her husband. In another comic high point, Balasko wanders around a subway station full of men, sharing the afterglow of her love-making with these strangers as if she were the town crier of
sexual satisfaction. When presenting such slyly exaggerated versions of reality, director-writer Blier sends our spirits soaring. Unfortunately, as the affair unravels, so does the film--though not before a brilliant set-piece that foreshadows the unhappy ending: through subtle camera movement and
costume changes, a dinner party is transformed from a feast for the long-married couple into their wedding celebration, then into yet another party that is crashed by Balasko. By the time Depardieu comes to his senses, his wife has lost all but proprietary interest in him, while Balasko (in flash
forwards) settles into a comfortable domestic life with another man. Depardieu is no longer torn between wife and mistress, but abandoned by both.
Since the conceptual interest of Blier's wife-mistress role reversal can only energize his film partially, TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR YOU derives much of its energy from such cinematic devices as flash forwards and internal monologs that express the characters' thoughts. But Blier's narrative freedom and
fluid camera cannot provide enough elan to preserve the farcically upbeat tone. With no rapprochement in the battle of the sexes, the comedy turns sour as Blier explores his theme, apparently concluding that sexual passion and marital love cannot exist in the same relationship. Blier fails,
however, to bring much depth to his observations of how people make their own beds but refuse to lie in them, relying on his considerable technical skills to take the place of insight. Having been led to expect a comedy, one feels betrayed when the film's message turns out to be not only bleak but
unedifying. Though TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR YOU remains prodigiously clever, and individual sequences continue to impress, this film about the impossibility of sustaining love is a failure of sustentation in itself. Instead of informing our sadness, Blier's comedic sequences only make it more painful.
Musical selections include: Impromptus, Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 3; Andantino, Sonata in D Major, D.959 (performed by Odette Garentlaub); "Rosamunde," D.797, Entr'acte No. 2 (performed by Elly Ameling, Kurt Masur); String Quartet in D Minor, D.810, No. 14 ("Death and the Maiden") (performed by the Melos
Quartet); "Wiegenlied," D.498 (performed by Ameling, Dalton Baldwin); Sonata for Piano and Arpeggione, D.821 (performed by Mstislav Rostropovitch, Benjamin Britten); "Fierabras," D.796, Overture (performed by Paul Angerer); Serenade (performed by Doris Soffel, Roland Keller, Marinus Voorberg);
"Deutsche Messe," D.872 ("The Lord's Prayer") (performed by the Tolzer Knabenchor, Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden); "German Dance," D.90, No. 1 (performed by Horst Stein, the Bamberger Symphony); "Zwischenaktmusik," Op. 26, No. 3 (performed by Stein, the Bamberger Symphony); Mass in E-flat Major, D.950
("Sanctus") (performed by Sawallisch, Donath, Popp, Fassbaender, Schreier, Araiza, Dallapozza, Fischer-Dieskau); Waltz, D.779, No. 18 (performed by Alice Ader), all by Franz Schubert; "Love Story" (Francis Lai). (Adult situations, profanity, nudity, sexual situations.)
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