With the arrival of numerous Jacques Demy films on Hulu this week, it was a pleasant surprise to discover a modern French film draped in his color palette. Axelle Ropert’s Tirez la langue, mademoiselle creates a melancholy aura with a constant state of blue surrounding two love-stricken brothers, but the endearing and lively energy of Louise Bourgoin keeps the film above water. It’s François Truffaut with a shade of Demy; Jules et Jim holding The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
As the Batman and Robin of their neighborhood’s medical scene, Boris (Cédric Kahn) and Dimitri (Laurent Stocker) are strong in the knowledge department but weak in matters of the heart. They might arrive at a female patient’s door and save the day but could possibly fall in love if offered a cup of ‘jo. In other words, they fall easily and hard. But that’s what makes Tirez la langue, mademoiselle a joy to watch. The battle of “love at first sight” vs. realities of time and location.
Tall, colorful and undeniably beautiful, Judith Durance (Bourgoin) enters the life of the Brothers Pizarnik by accident. After her daughter (Paula Denis) telephones a doctor, the more gruff brother, Boris, arrives and later patronizes Judith about leaving her child home alone. The barmaid acknowledges the doc’s edgy persona and he seems to enjoy it. Boris has likely picked up a few ladies in his day thanks to a tough exterior and a stern stare. On the other hand, Dimitri takes a more light-hearted approach to life. After all, he’s a recovering alcoholic and Judith appears to understands the inner depths of him after a chance meeting. With both doctors in love and ready to commit, Judith takes a step back to assess the situation. Even young Alice recognizes that something is off.
Mentally, Judith lives in a much different world that her two admirers. The father of her child lives in Parma, Italy and protecting Alice is her primary concern. She’s doesn’t fall in love after a brief conversation nor does she insult Boris when he acknowledges that he “never planned on having a wife.” Having a wife? Boris enjoys a “bromance” with his business partner bro but has no idea what “romance” truly means. And even though Dimitri can make Judith laugh, it’s a “sad clown” type of comedy that disappears once the realities of love take hold. All involved have been dealt their own hand in life but want that one extra card. As Lermontov said, “Life is a bank, fate is the dealer and I am the player.”
The dialogue of Tirez la langue, mademoiselle often comes across as unintentionally comedic, and there’s an unnecessary game of “pass the message” in the final act, but writer/director Ropert does a fine job of establishing character depth and setting the atmosphere with the color tones. Tirez la langue, mademoiselle feels like a Truffaut story with a Demy style while touching on modern issues.
Ropert ultimately addresses some heavy themes in Tirez la langue, mademoiselle and Céline Bozon’s impressive cinematography highlights the mental framework of the characters, but the final balance of backstory left me wanting more. All in all, the visuals and performances were on-point.
Tirez la langue, mademoiselle is part of iTunes’ “My French Film Festival” and available to rent for $1.99 until February 16.