French Twist

on January 19, 1996 by Alex Albanese
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So far, American films about lesbianism--e.g., "Go Fish" or "The Incredible True Story of Two Girls in Love"--are usually just that: films about lesbianism. The earnestness of the desire to document and justify seems to crowd out the ability to do anything more. But here, as with so many other aspects of l'amour, we can geekishly turn to our cooler older sibling, France, for some pointers. Now, Les Francais may not really be any more sophisticated about things than we are, but they sure seem a whole lot more relaxed--and in love relaxation counts. For one thing, it allows the French--or, in this case, writer/director/co-star Josianne Balasko--to make a wittily entertaining movie like "French Twist."
   With nary a grinding axe in sight, Balasko presents a familar scenario: a successful, philandering husband; his devoted, happy, unsuspecting wife; and the free-spirited stranger who'll upset everything by the second reel. But this time the stranger making the pass at the missus is played by Josianne, not Clint, and things get a whole lot more complex than they ever did in Madison County.
   What makes "French Twist" (aka "Gazon Maudit") both so refreshing and so funny is a level of maturity that allows every character to act with immature pettiness, just like real people. Balasko explores a range of situations and emotions, and she never allows the tables to stop turning; once you think things have finally sorted themselves out, the triangle reforms again. As the married couple, Victoria Abril and Alain Chabat give first-rate performances. Even when matters escalate to the level of farce, they remain utterly convincing, and Balasko's tight direction keeps even the furthest reaches of plot on course. Maybe the French are more sophisticated than we are. Starring Victoria Abril, Alan Chabat and Josianne Balasko. Directed and written by Josianne Balasko. Produced by Claude Berri. A Miramax Zoe release. Comedy. French-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 107 min.
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