The Players/ les Infidèles
Directed by Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Emmanuelle Bercot, Fred Cavayé, Alexandre Courtès, Michel Hazanavicius, Jan Kounen and Eric Lartigau. Starring Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Guillaume Canet, Isabelle Nanty, Geraldine Nakache, Alexandra Lamy, Sandrine Kiberlain, Manu Payet, Mathilda May, Clara Ponsot 18 cert, QFT, Belfast, 109 min
THE PLAYERS arrives having hit the headlines in France for a gruesome poster campaign in which the film’s stars posed between a woman’s legs. Who cares as long as you have the bottom lady-half, right? We couldn’t accuse the film-makers of false advertising – the word “risqué” might have been invented for this icky French adultery comedy.
Arriving hot on the heels of the similarly unenlightened Gallic maid-chaser The Women on the 6th Floor, this erratic portmanteau features Gilles Lellouche and Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin (who also co-wrote it) as a variety of wandering beaux.
An epic opening sequence in which the two hustlers end up in sexual synchronicity under two bouncing ladies foregrounds the frivolous tone. Throughout, they’re lightly mocked: Dujardin raps along to some woebegotten French hip-hop, sports at least two ludicrous haircuts and goes sad sack for the Michel Hazanavicius episode (The Good Conscience) as a corporate underling hoping to score during a business convention.
If only the other segments were as reassuringly parodic. Mostly the film unfolds as a series of sexual adventures in which the twosome don different jobs, clothes and orientation. The aim remains what Erica Jong once called the “zipless fuck”. The tone is unsettlingly blithe.
The transitions between different directors’ efforts can make for fun juxtaposition, and the chemistry between Dujardin and Lellouche is easy. Unhappily, their onscreen qualities and the tongue- in-cheek presentation aren’t nearly enough to atone for the rife misogyny that pervades almost every chapter.
Polisse writer-star Emmanuelle Bercot’s The Question, featuring Dujardin alongside real-life wife Alexandra Lamy, is the exception that leaves us wondering what the film might have been had looked like if more female writers and directors had contributed.
Plus ça change. In common with all portmanteau pictures, the technical qualities and tone are wildly inconsistent. Eric Lartigau’s Lolita flounders; Alexandre Courtes’s ostentatious account of a sex addict group featuring Sandrine Kiberlain is whacky enough to win us over.
We look forward to Courtes’s debut feature, The Incident. But the rest is Ew-la-la.