In “Mauvais Genre,” an immature novelist stalks an exotic foreign woman as inspiration for his next book only to alienate the exotic foreign woman he already lives with. Director and co-scripter Laurent Benegui, whose 18-character ode to a closing bistro, “Au Petit Marguery,” wooed viewers in 1995, tries way too hard to charm and amuse in this stilted look at the writer’s creative process. Despite a few valiant plot points, overall result is forced and unsatisfying. Commercial reception looks weak, with Eurotubes a better bet.
Disheveled, egocentric main character, who writes under the name Martial Bok (Jacques Gamblin), is like a direct descendant of Balzac. His sexy novel “La fille de dos” (“Girl Observed from the Rear”) has just hit stores and he’s desperate for feedback, nervous and insecure as he does the rounds of talkshows and book signings. Martial’s live-in g.f., Lucie (Elina Lowensohn), whose job entails posing as a hotel client to test the level of service in luxury establishments, is often away for the night.
When a beautiful young woman buys a copy of his book, Martial follows her home and spies on her as she devours the volume prior to disrobing for the night. So begins a series of writerly fantasies in which Martial becomes obsessed with the anonymous reader, who turns out to be an Italian-accented hat designer named Camille (Monica Bellucci).
Complications pile up when Lucie brings Camille into the picture for real and Martial cranks out another juicy manuscript. Tepid subplots include Martial’s surprising fan base among Pigalle prostitutes and his tendency to injure himself or upset the police while eavesdropping.
Gamblin, a versatile and busy-of-late actor, inhabits his unsympathetic role as well as anyone could be expected to, but still looks silly lurking behind trees. Lowensohn, who fit so well into Hal Hartley’s universe, gives her all to individual scenes but never truly convinces. Bellucci is also saddled with dialogue and situations that are nearly impossible to interpret smoothly.
Perky and varied musical score also pushes its ideas more forcefully than is necessary. Lensing, which incorporates many Paris locations, is adequate to good.
A novelist, screenwriter, playwright and producer whose production company has shown generosity toward a circle of predominantly young creative types, Benegui lucked out with the semi-autobiographical, studio-set “Marguery,” but here shows his shortcomings at the craft level. Pic’s title is a pun, implying both someone of unsavory motives and “the wrong genre.”