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2015年3月29日 星期日

Party Girl (舞吧! 夜遊天使)

Making a film about one's mother can never be easy. The difficulty would probably triple if it were to be made by three of the children of that same mother who share all the ideas about how such a film is to be made, who is responsible for what and who should have the final say in doing or not doing certain things or the way those things are to be done and the film is their very first. Yet that is exactly what Samuel Theis, Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq and Claire Burger did in a documentary-like feature film about their mother, a 60-year-old hard drinking self-centred cabaret dancer with bags below her eyes, loads of thick rings around her fingers living at a hotel room above the local pole dance club who somehow couldn't quite get used to the idea that she is not longer the star attraction there suddenly announced her desire to her children to get married (Sonia Angélique Theis-Litzemburger).

The film Party Girl (2014), selected as the opening film of Un Certain Regard for films which are "different and original" at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, was co-written, co-directed, co-acted by Theis, Amachoukeli-Barsacq and Burger. It's a film which took them 4 years from hatching to completion, using mostly amateur actors and actresses who play themselves at a town at the French-German border.

As the film opens, we find Angelique sitting alone at the bar table watching the other girls at the cabaret dancing their number and being advised by the bar tender not to drink too much and being escorted by the bouncer up her room at closing time, superfluously suspicious that he might take advantage of her fading charms. In an effort to boost business, she visited one of her old clients, Michel Henrich (Joseph Bour), a retiree and gun club member living alone in a modestly comfortable suburban house and asked him why he ceased going. He told her that he did not feel comfortable being gently pressured to drink more than he desired at vastly inflated prices when all he wanted to do is to see and talk to her and the other girls there. He told her that he wanted a more stable relationship. As he said in his down to earth manner, " We should live together, laugh together, fart together". After a while, Michel proposed to Angelique who announced her intention to get married to three of her children but felt uncomfortable about writing to her fourth child Cythia whom she abandoned when she was 6 and is now 16 living with her new foster family, to express her ardent desire to have her around at her wedding and sought assistance of first one son  and then another to do so and then the assistance of Michel to call her up. Her son obliged but not Michel, who thought that that was something she had to do for herself. 

The film turned on the comraderie between the dancers and the sudden reunion of first three and then all four children as a result of Angelique's sudden decision. When it was time to go home after a hot balloon fun fair with Michel's gun club buddies, she was reluctant to leave and wanted to continue the party by going to the club. Michel who was usually more than accommodating to her, stood firm and went home alone whilst she went to the club, got drunk and insulted the younger dancers by claiming that they were nothing compared to her and tried to use her charms on a young man there who touched her but was told cruelly that if she wanted to get laid, it was she who should pay him. She got into a brawl and was escorted out by the club bouncer

Just one day before the wedding, she got nervous and confessed to Sam that she did not have that kind of feeling towards Michel which would ready her to do whatever Michel asked of her and was told by Sam calmly that she appeared to still want to feel like a 14-year-old girl at the age of 60 and that in life, one must make certain compromises and that he thought Michel would make an excellent husband and would be her last chance for a reasonably happy marriage. But she still insisted that that kind of feeling was absolutely necessary or else it would be meaningless. She went through the marriage ceremony though, at the local church and then had a very successful party afterwards with all of Michel's friends coming as well as all her sisters at the cabaret. All her children spoke at the wedding party about how they all loved her in their own unique and personal way. But when it was bed time, she felt she could not go through with it. To be expected, this made Michel extremely angry, complaining quite justly that she was making a fool of him. But she put on her dress, then her overcoat and left for the cabaret. It appeared that she could never quite forget the satisfaction that she got from seducing men and settle down to being just an ordinary housewife leading a lack lustre life, just like any other middle class woman. But it's really anybody's guess whether in the end the gypsy in her, which lusts after the artificial glamor of  cabaret lights and its heart thumping music could ever be tamed sufficiently for her to return to Michel's side or whether she will continue to dream her alcohol-smelling dream until another blow like the one she sustained earlier from the young man at the bar would hammer into her a more realistic recognition of the common ate of all women past their prime, just like everybody else.

Sonia Angélique Theis-Litzemburger is excellent as an actress. Maybe she didn't need to act. She just needed to be herself. And the same would apply to all the other actors and actresses. A most unusual first feature by the brother-sisters team which shows us a slice of life from a "real" story and a most successful one. As Samuel Theis said in an interview, when the idea for this film was first conceived, everyone thought he was mad but then, the mad idea materialized into a one of a kind film which now appears to be well received in more than one country.