Everybody likes sex, right?
Well, maybe not priests, but…
Ok. Bad joke.
But sex is not a subject I’ve ever written about specifically in any of my film reviews.
And perhaps it is only fitting that Puppylove be the movie under the aegis of which I first do so.
There are several ways of situating this film “historically” in the medium of cinema.
One would be to take a recent frame of reference.
In a strange example of Zeitgeist, Blue is the Warmest Color beat Puppylove to market by about six months.
Indeed, La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 might be the best comparison.
But it is not a very historical one.
Which is to say, the two films are more or less contemporaneous.
Were the creators of the latter film influenced by the earlier release?
Because the connection is strong.
From the astounding Adèle Exarchopoulos, we can draw an easy line to the equally-sublime Solène Rigot.
Their characters, Adèle and Diane, are extremely similar.
But let’s take director Delphine Lehericey’s wonderful film back to an actual previous point in film development.
Solène Rigot is an easy comparison to Thora Birch (my favorite actress ever) in that film.
Likewise, Audrey Bastien is an exact overlay (no pun intended) on Mena Suvari’s character Angela Hayes.
[At this point I would like to quote Neil Young (“I fell in love with the actress/She was playing a part that I could understand”) and admit that Solène Rigot really stole my heart with this one. It took me awhile to fully comprehend…who she looked like…someone who broke my heart…a Beatrice in my Dantean darkness upon a time.]
Back to film criticism, and sticking with 1999’s “Best Picture”, we should also note that Kevin Spacey is well signified by signifier Vincent Perez in Puppylove.
To paraphrase Godard, ever image in every film is a quote.
Which brings us to the fountainhead.
To wit, where does this style of filmmaking which Lehericey is practicing originate?
For me, there is no better answer than Monsieur Godard’s perfect film Je vous salue, Marie.
Hail Mary‘s most jaw-dropping asset was the inimitable Myriem Roussel.
Solène Rigot is a reincarnation of Roussel’s magic.
Instead of basketball, it’s field hockey.
But Puppylove goes on to quote delicately and successfully.
Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water.
Perhaps even Kubrick’s Lolita (equally applicable to American Beauty…at least in theory).
But I’m the schmuck who wins the prize.
I didn’t care how “hot” Mena Suvari was.
And I don’t give a shit about Audrey Bastien’s skinny little frame either.
[Though Bastien is a much better actress than Suvari.]
I fall for the outcasts.
Jane Burnham (Thora Birch).
And, here, Diane (Solène Rigot).
Puppylove is not as earth-shattering a film as Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color.
But Delphine Lehericey is an extremely gifted director.
And she had the secret weapon to pull it off.
Puppylove will endure because Rigot is the real thing.
I’ve hardly talked about sex yet (like, not at all).
But that’s the way the master of understatement Hitchcock would have done it.
The most sublime moments in highly-sexualized European cinema are when the sex isn’t happening.
Exarchopoulos proved this.
And Rigot confirms it.