Beau-père (1981)

Music as Sex

Nabokov’s “Lolita” is a milestone in literature — the narrator is obsessed to the point where anything he says is at least synthesised out of that obsession and at worse fabricated. It is only about sex in so far as giving a focus to the obsession of being.

Here we have a very clever converse. Yes we have the stepdaughter, the “artistic” stepfather widowed by a car wreck and the copulation between the two. We have a child with the flue, and a key message delivered in writing. Performance permeates.

The difference between that message in the book and this film mirrors the difference between the perspective of the two. In “Lolita,” the reading of the diary comes immediately before the accident and is unintended. Here it comes immediately after and is.

The story this time is from the girl’s perspective. She is the one with the obsession and the seductive initiative. It is he that is wrapped up in performance and who is tempted away by a superior performer. Just this depth of understanding of such a radical experiment in narrative colours this film as something worth watching.

(The designated watcher in this version is the redheaded wife of a fellow musician.)

But otherwise, the film is a pedestrian affair. A few titillations, a few comedic moments, some sweetness. In other words, it carries all the baggage of a normal French film. It is bereft of, say, the lepidopteran — or similar — metaphors, the constant shifts in narrative layers (by this time, 1981, by no means experimental) and the references outside the film.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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