Saturday, May 16, 2020

the great deception

Madame Mills, une voisine si parfaite
(France 2018, dir: Sophie Marceau)

This movie is currently showing on TV5Monde, possibly as part of a series on Sophie Marceau (they showed Arrêtez moi last week, which was interesting as well). I wouldn’t normally watch a comedy with Pierre Richard, but since seeing La Boum when we were both a few decades younger, I have watched quite a few films with Sophie Marceau and I was keen to expand my collection, especially as she’s directed this one as well.

So, for people who know about this kind of comedy, it would probably be easy to dismiss this as a Pierre-Richard-does-Tootsie kind of dinosaur. My angle, however, is: Aren’t we all inventing our own reality? So here’s what I think the film is about.

The naming of Mrs. Mills character is of course a reference to Mills & Boon. Sophie Marceau plays Hélène, who has inherited a publishing house that used to be successful in romantic novels, but is struggling to adapt to the 21st century, as an investor based in Toronto is breathing down her neck. (It’s on the checklist for French movies being made these days: you have to have a few sentences in English in the dialogue, and at least one city outside the Francophonie.)

Pierre Richard moves in next door to her in the disguise of Mrs. Mills. The charming old lady starts invading Hélène’s life, claiming she’s a superfan of the romantic novels her house produces. Hélène has a eureka moment and hires Mrs. Mills as the Instagram-friendly, relatable, public face of her outmoded brand of escapism.

But who is really deluding whom, apart from everybody deluding themselves? Most will agree that romantic novels, comedians and conmen are deceiving us, but how about publishing in general, social media, modern art? And the whole globalisation thing? Perhaps we’re all being deceived all the time, it’s just that some deceptions, like Pierre Richard in drag (what big hands you have!), are more obvious than others.

According to IMDB, it was released in Germany on July 4, 2019 as well as in Greece. No other cinematic releases outside of France.

PS Looking up filmographies to work out how many of her films I've seen (current estimate: 19/46) it struck me that she regularly works with female directors. Since 2000 she starred in 21 films, of which 11 were directed by women. That includes 2 she directed herself but still a very impressive record.

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