Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan


(Hors de prix, France, 2006)

From almost the first frames this one reminded me of those frothy, sophisticated comedies set on the French Riviera in the ‘60s. Lots of fancy hotel rooms and restaurants, jewelry, clothes, fast sports cars. And sure enough, the director, Pierre Salvadori, says he used Breakfast at Tiffany’s as a model. Before long I was reminded of other films and stars. There was Buster Keaton, because the male lead, Gad Elmaleh (born in Tunisia) is almost as deadpan as the Great Stone Face. And Charlie Chaplin and Pretty Woman, because … well, let’s get into the plot.

He is a waiter-bartender-dog-walker at a fancy hotel on the beach. Audrey Tautou is a golddigger, if you want to be generous, a whore if you’re not feeling so liberal, currently living with a rich older man at the hotel. Through a mix-up, she mistakes him for another rich man. She gets drunk with him, goes to bed with him, and the old man finds out and dumps her. So she decided to latch on to the new sugar daddy. He is madly in love with her, and is able to keep the charade going for a while. (This is all very much a Chaplin plot, i.e., City Lights.) But he is finally exposed, and she heads off to Nice trolling for another sucker. He follows, and messes up her first date with a rich man. She’s furious. He’s smitten. He spends every last centime he has on a shopping and fine dining frenzy she takes him on for revenge. As he’s about to be arrested for non-payment of his hotel bill, he is picked up by an older, rich woman …

These characters are both shameless opportunists, she from the git-go, and he learns quickly. It’s easy to see why he would. He’s lived a long time watching the extremely rich, and it really ain’t fucking fair, is it? Some people have so much money they have to work hard at frittering away their days, and some have so little they have to bust their asses all day long just to get by. That’s what reminded me of Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts has seen all this stuff—anyone can walk down Rodeo Drive, even me—and she covets it. Naturally, in both movies, they discover that “love” is more important (though Julia does get to marry the billionaire). But just how bad is it, what they’re doing? Will these people ever miss the money they spent on their courtesans and gigolos? No way. I dunno, man. I don’t covet all that bling, but I sure do covet the carefree lifestyle. Puttering away together on a motor scooter may be the moral “happy” ending … but what are they going to do now? Walk dogs?