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‘Too Beautiful for You’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 11, 1990

Bertrand Blier has spent his film career depicting male sexuality, usually to the detriment of women, but in "Too Beautiful for You," the French filmmaker shows signs of mellowing into a benevolent misogynist. This 1989 romance, a battle for the heart of a middle-aged mechanic, is probably as close as the French will come to making "She Devil." It's a thoughty, pouty broken valentine pervaded with comic melancholia and Schubert.

Gerard Depardieu, le hulk incroyable, is at the heart of matters in his fifth collaboration with Blier -- a love triangle that catches the hero, Bernard, between his chiseled wife (Carole Bouquet) and his dumpy lover (Josiane Balkasko). Bouquet, the familiar face of Chanel No. 5, is eau so beautiful as Florence, mother of Bernard's two well-behaved children and chatelaine of his elegant suburban home. "Maybe she's too sublime, too ideal," ponders the self-absorbed Bernard. "What's left to desire when you live with that gem?"

And so Bernard goes into a midlife crisis, like a Talking Head asking himself, "Is this my beautiful wife? Is this my beautiful house?" The most obvious symptom of his despair -- aside from asking more silly questions than a 2-year-old -- is his sudden infatuation with Colette, his temporary secretary. Balkasko, a popular Parisian comedian and filmmaker, is a peach-plush loving spoonful, a plain woman who has learned to attract men with her wounded eyes. "Know what shatters me about you?" says Bernard. "That you are shattered." Oh, you old flatterer.

Though a chilly sort, Florence is unwilling to let go of Bernard and fights back with a feral snobbishness. She confronts Colette, still "vibrating" with ecstasy, and demands an explanation -- not that she gets one that makes too much sense. This is a movie from France, after all, and as such it is full of sentiments both impenetrable and goopily vulgar. For instance, here's a real turn-on: "I will spit sweetly into your mouth," says Colette to Bernard, a panting Neanderthal grinding beneath her like Refrigerator Perry with apoplexy.

Colette is pathetically grateful for the attentions of a male. But she does, at least, know that about herself. And she knows the landscape of l'amour, especially the downhill slide, correctly predicting that Bernard will grow bored with her. Never wear a flowered bathrobe to an affair.

"Too Beautiful for You" grows as tired as the affair it anatomizes. Sparks fly, at first blinding the hero to the shabbiness of the motel at noon, then fade as his paramour is faded in her old ski parka and shabby clothes. It was just one of those things, and not much fun at that.

"Too Beautiful for You" is in French with English subtitles and contains sexually explicit scenes and language.

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