Ma Vie En Rose

on December 26, 1997 by Lael Loewenstein
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   The first film by Belgian director Alain Berliner, "Ma Vie en Rose" is a scathingly funny, brutally critical commentary on gender roles and bourgeois thinking that turned out to be one of Cannes' unexpected delights. Having just moved to the suburbs, married couple Hanna (Michele Laroque) and Pierre (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey) have only one problem: Their nine-year-old son Ludovic (Georges du Fresne, a revelation) thinks he's a girl. First, he appears at a family barbecue wearing a dress. Then, on entering a new school, Ludovic instantly falls for one of his classmates (a boy) and hijacks the lead role in the class play (Snow White). Adding to their trials, Hanna and Pierre must contend with a new-age therapist who believes Ludovic should do as he pleases and with old-fashioned neighbors who think they're mad.
   Berliner's film is a triumph on several levels. He deftly renders his cinematic suburbia at once real and surreal, with a tone that manages to be both hilarious and affecting. Amid a color palette of extremes--cotton candy-pink dresses, an electric blue sky--Berliner's characters exist in a Magritte paradise. Clever camera techniques and bold cinematography underscore the unique tone: High-angle shots lend an air of precipitousness, while over-the-shoulder shots provide a sense of depth in a seemingly shallow world. Contrapuntally, the heightened look of the film comedically undercuts the potentially serious nature of Ludovic's dilemma.
   Yet Berliner also draws a moving portrait of a family in crisis with a well-played role reversal between the parents. Hanna, initially her son's fervent supporter, crumbles under the social pressure and loses her patience with him; Pierre, at first threatened by Ludovic's behavior, later softens into gentle understanding. "Ma Vie en Rose" is a rare gem: a comedy-drama with crossover potential, sure to appeal as much to gay audiences as straight ones.    Starring Michele Laroque, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey and Georges du Fresne. Directed by Alain Berliner. Written by Chris Vander Stappen and Alain Berliner. Produced by Carole Scotta. A Sony Classics release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 89 min.
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