"The Gift," as light and flaky as a fine French pastry, is frisky, romantic farce -- not filling, just thrilling.
Sleek and practiced Clio Goldsmith is "The Gift," a tart with heart whose sensual ministrations put the get up and go back into a retiring banker played by Pierre Mondy. Their 48-hour affair also perks up his bankrupt marriage with Claudia Cardinale. (You know you're emotionally overdrawn when Cardinale can't turn you on.) It's a cure that may gall no-nonsense feminists, but surely everybody else will forgive, if not give credence to, this French remedy for male menopause.
Mondy's banker, with great Gallic glee, gives up francs and figures for early retirement, but finds instead la dolce vita. He meets Goldsmith, a pricey call girl planted in his compartment by coworkers, on his last business trip to Italy. She seduces him into seducing her, thereby renewing his confidence in himself and hers in humanity.
The plot, laced and enlivened with frivolous subplots, skips gaily and rapidly along, full of visual caprice, charade and flippant intrigue. Mondy is consummately comedic and he's cute -- a bit chunky, with crinkled eyes and an endearing style. There's also a lap dog named Daddy, always curled on the bed with the lovers, making it all seem somehow sinfully cuddly.
Even his wife doesn't mind all that much. When he returns to Paris, she suspects the source of his rejuvenation. But this is Europe, so she indulges him, agreeing to a return trip to Venice for a second honeymoon. The sensuous Cardinale, who does her best to look the worn wife, never does. She just looks sexier, her wet dress clinging, after a lover's leap into the Grand Canal -- a dunking d,enouement.
"The Gift," directed by Michel Lang, successfully mates classic French and American romantic styles, including a dance tribute to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Lang also wrote the delightful script from the play "Bankers Also Have Souls." For the price of a ticket, you buy a lot of laughing stock in his money market. THE GIFT -- At the Outer Circle.