Bushwhacked

"Gazon Maudit" is a genuinely funny love triangle involving a married couple and the interloping lesbian who upsets -- and expands -- the established dynamics of their relationship. It's a saucy, daring comedy in which sex becomes an ever-shifting game of musical chairs.

With:
Loli - Victoria Abril
Marijo - Josiane Balasko
Laurent - Alain Chabat
Antoine - Ticky Holgado
Diego - Miguel Bose
Dany - Catherine Hiegel
The Prostitute - Catherine Samie

“Gazon Maudit” is a genuinely funny love triangle involving a married couple and the interloping lesbian who upsets — and expands — the established dynamics of their relationship. It’s a saucy, daring comedy in which sex becomes an ever-shifting game of musical chairs.

Established popularity of the lead trio is certain to attract crowds at Gallic wickets, and, properly handled, pic could seduce a good chunk of the international arthouse crowd that responded to “La Cage aux folles” and pines for the thoughtful, slightly anarchic romps of Lina Wertmuller in her heyday. Distribs on the lookout for an adult conversation starter should be eager about this one.

In a homey residential district near Avignon, homemaker Loli (Victoria Abril) and realtor Laurent (Alain Chabat) live comfortably with their two young sons. The only glitch is that hubby isn’t home much, as he’s tied up with “work” that mostly involves a tasty selection of available young women.

The unrepentant Laurent considers his own cheating perfectly legitimate so long as he doesn’t get caught. Loli, who gave up a modest career as a dancer to marry, loves him and doesn’t suspect a thing.

When Marijo (director and co-scripter Josiane Balasko) has car trouble near Loli’s front lawn, latter invites the cordial stranger in. Balasko, sporting a butch haircut and handling her plump, squarish build with an appealing swagger, makes Marijo the most self-assured, matter-of-fact lesbian this side of “Go Fish.”

Believing — prematurely — that he’s been cuckolded by another woman, Laurent behaves odiously and helps precipitate what he most fears. When Loli discovers that Laurent has been polishing his knob across half of Provence, she retaliates by inviting Marijo to move in.

Realizing, too late, that he loves his wife and wants to win her back, Laurent suffers the indignity of living chastely with the two women who are buoyantly, guiltlessly enjoying each other’s company. Hubby and wife trade off the emotional upper hand until the showdown between Laurent and Marijo over Loli’s affections takes a particularly interesting turn.

The intelligent script, abrim with off-color puns, employs universal human emotions to playfully up the ante on double standards. Chabat’s wounded masculine pride is something to behold, as is his range of emotions — from sulking to born-again tolerance when he sees a way to use his wife’s romantic jealousy to gain ground.

Balasko (best known to foreign auds as Gerard Depardieu’s pudgy mistress in “Too Beautiful for You”) and Abril are convincingly lovey-dovey, though visuals never venture beyond kissing, hand-holding and a cozy bathtub scene in which Abril casually fondles Balasko’s breast.

Thesps are completely comfortable with their bodies and with the material, which lends vital authenticity to the proceedings. To pic’s credit, nothing is presented in a voyeuristic or titillating manner, and each romantic pairing is endowed with warmth and sincerity as well as comic timing.

Soap opera-ish Spanish-inflected music is a welcome touch. Lensing is attractive and effective. Pacing is predominantly punchy.

Untranslatable French title is a slangy compound whose meaning encompasses female genitalia, Sapphic inclinations and the notion of certain women being forever off-limits to male advances.

Bushwhacked

French

Production: An AMLF release (in France) of a Renn Prods./TF1 Films Prod./Les Films Flam production, with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: President Films, Paris.) Produced by Claude Berri. Executive producer, Pierre Grunstein. Directed by Josiane Balasko. Screenplay, Balasko, Telshe Boorman.

Crew: Camera (color), Gerard de Battista; editor, Claudine Merlin; music, Manuel Malou; production design, Carlos Conti; costume design, Fabienne Katany; sound, Pierre Lenoir, Dominique Hennequin; assistant director, Christophe Vassort. Reviewed at Havas screening room, Paris, Jan. 18, 1995. Running time:105 MIN.

With: Loli - Victoria Abril
Marijo - Josiane Balasko
Laurent - Alain Chabat
Antoine - Ticky Holgado
Diego - Miguel Bose
Dany - Catherine Hiegel
The Prostitute - Catherine Samie

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