Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Cannes review of Party Girl

The opening film in Un Certain Regard is decent, but doesn’t set the world alight.

Fri, May 16, 2014, 12:56




Directed by Claire Burger, Marie Amachoukeli and Samuel Theis

Starring Angélique Litzenburger, Joseph Bour, Mario Theis, Samuel Theis, Severine Litzenburger, Cynthia Litzenburger

96 min, Un Certain Regard

When the authorities insert a first film by unknown directors into a prominent Cannes slot it is fair to assume that they’ve happened upon something special. So, there was some excitement when it was announced that Party Girl — a debut feature by no fewer than three young directors — would be opening the prestigious Un Certain Regard strand. It’s time to calm down. This is a decent, competent film that invites faint-praise semi-superlatives such as “humane” and “decent”. It’s not much more than that though.

The charismatic Angélique Litzenburger plays an older “hostess” at a club on the Franco-German border who, after accepting a marriage proposal from a loyal customer, makes preparations to embark on the straight life. All kinds of complications soon spring up. What is he to do about her four children, each of whom has a different father? Does she really want to leave the company of her old pals at the club? As events progress, her new partner begins to bristle at some of her habits.

The story behind the film is an interesting one. Claire Burger, Marie Amachoukeli and Samuel Theis, old friends from film school, originally collaborated on a short film based around the early experiences of Theis mother — Ms Litzenburger herself — and felt inspired to return to the material when their subject decided to get married. It hardly needs to be said that the star carries the right ambience, but she also has a strong way with a saucy line and knows how to occupy the frame. The film gets to grips with its earthy milieu with a confidence that recalls the work of Robert Guediguian. In particular, it is nice to see how warm and unpatronising the trio of directors are in their treatment of the club, its staff and its customers. This is no horror story.

Yet, for all that, Party Girl ultimately feels a little thin. The strong interplay holds attention throughout, but the ending feels compromised, trite and underdeveloped. Still a work in progress perhaps.