Marie-Claire (Brigitte Poupart) loves and is committed to her husband but has no interest in depriving herself of sexual pleasure. Her husband understands that she has affairs, however, he would rather be blissful ignorant about the details. Their arrangement suits Marie-Claire, a respected dermatologist and professor, just fine. However, her 14-year-old daughter’s developing sexuality, and an ethics investigation at the university, cause her to question the toll her lifestyle has taken on her family.
Director Renée Beaulieu’s depiction of Marie-Claire’s sex life is explicit but never gratuitous. Much like Marie-Claire’s research at the university, Les Salopes is a study of desire and whether it differs from romantic love. Every character has an opinion on the matter, just as every audience member is likely to, but Beaulieu seems more interested in treating every character and viewpoint with compassion than she is in finding easy answers.
Les Salopes’ refusal to judge its characters is one of many things to admire about this very well-made Canadian film. It has lots of great character moments and Poupart’s gives a courageous and lived-in performance. Somehow, I didn’t love it though and I wish I knew why. I’d like to think that it’s not just because my monogamy bias is so strong that I just couldn’t relate to Marie-Claire. I did in fact find myself feeling a lot more for her husband and daughter (very well-played by Vincent Leclerc and Romane Denis respectively). Either way, something’s holding me back from loving it but the fact that it made me uncomfortable, and left me asking myself why, is probably reason enough to recommend it.
Sunday, September 9, 12:00 PM, Jackman Hall