Actors: Fabrice Luchini, Isabelle Huppert
Director: Benoit Jacquot
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Cohen Media Group
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Run Time: 274 minutes
Not only are the three films included in The Benoît Jacquot Collection all from the 1990s, they each have a connection in themes and characters, especially when considering the commonalities in the young female roles. I can’t decide whether the approach is feminist or merely a representation of how the beauty of youth is coveted by an endless stream of middle-aged men in all three narratives. Either way, the ideas from these movies only work because of the enigmatic and captivating performances from Jacquot’s leading ladies, each balancing somewhere between girlishly adolescent behavior and the maturity of womanhood.
The Disenchanted (1990) stars Judith Godrèche as 17-year-old Beth, a reactionary teen whose stubbornness leads her to make rash decisions. In the opening scene of the film, Beth’s boyfriend suggests that she sleep with another man to be sure that she really loves him. Though this is clearly an immature attempt at being reassured that she cares, Beth’s immediate acceptance of the challenge shows her ability to match his childish behavior. The fact that she refers to her boyfriend as “what’s-his-name” and constantly surrounds herself with other adoring men is a clear sign that Beth is not attached in any way.
This immature behavior continues with the naivety with which Beth approaches nearly every aspect of her life, though some has developed out of necessity. Her mother is never seen out of bed, only capable of providing for her family with the help of a wealthy man that they casually refer to as Sugar Daddy. Men do not come off fantastic in this film because of their desire to possess or control the beautiful women of the narrative, but the women are no less at fault when they see men as nothing more than a financial asset which can be manipulated. Though the message is somewhat feminist, it turns a mirror on the hypocrisy of women who don’t want to be objectified but are willing to see men as little more than cash machines.
A Single Girl (1995) continues the tradition of narratives involving immature women facing constant objectification by the men surrounding them, though 19-year-old Valerie (Virginie Ledoyen) is far better equipped to handle the task. Taking place in real time, the narrative unfolds over the morning of Valerie’s first day working at a luxury hotel. Having just told him that she is pregnant, Valerie’s volatile and impatient boyfriend (Benoît Magimel) waits to discuss their situation in a nearby café. Meanwhile, Valerie is forced to endure the sexual harassment from one of her male co-workers, not to mention the perversions faced by irrational and irate hotel guests. It would be far easier to feel sympathy for Valerie, but she remains coldly distant for much of the film. Even when making the wise and mature decisions involving her situation, Valerie’s age and immaturity often shine through. This is most obvious in a sequence where Valerie is so frustrated by the lack of passion in her boyfriend’s goodbye that she nearly walks into oncoming traffic, forcing the young man to save her, adding Valerie to the list of female characters balancing between youth and maturity.
Keep It Quiet (1999) is easily my least favorite in this collection, mostly because it lacks the narrative simplicity of the first two. There are too many characters, too many coincidences, and a number of unresolved questions, but the themes from the first two films seem to carry over into one of the minor characters. At the center of the story is an upper class family that includes a television news personality (Vincent Lindon), a former CEO (Fabrice Luchini) recently released from a prison sentence for white collar crime, and his patient wife (Isabelle Huppert). The narrative is clearly a satire, though much of the humor is likely to be lost in translation despite the relevance of the message in today’s society.
The Disenchanted is contained on its own Blu-ray disc, while A Single Girl and Keep It Quiet are included together on the second disc in the collection. Each of the films come with their own special features, with an audio commentary by critics Wade Major and Tim Cogshell, on-camera discussions between Jacquot and Kent Jones, and theatrical re-release trailers for each of the films.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 7/10