A deliriously happy hooker recruits a pimp under delightfully absurd circumstances in “My Man.” Veteran iconoclast Bertrand Blier wouldn’t know a politically correct approach if it sat in his lap, and arthouse patrons will be all the richer for it — at least for an hour or so. Since pic isn’t sure what it’s about (except flying in the face of conventional morality), this stylish, keenly acted item runs out of both steam and substance before its less-than-satisfying conclusion.
Clearly her director’s muse in the time-honored Euro tradition, actress Anouk Grinberg puts her pliant body, pixie-ish face and distinctive, girlish voice front and center as Marie, an independent prostitute. Not only does Marie relish her work, she also has a heart of gold.
As she pulls in $ 1,000 a day, Marie thinks it only fair to rescue Jeannot (Gerard Lanvin), a crusty, blood-caked, bedraggled bum she finds sleeping in the garbage at the foot of her apartment stairway. He accepts her offer of a home-cooked meal, agrees to stay the night and, not one to take just any form of charity, responds to Marie’s offer of sex, on his own ruggedly masculine terms.
The couple’s instant carnal complicity is conveyed in a prolonged and steamy pas de deux. Marie’s so delighted that she professes her love and asks him to be her pimp. Soon he’s recruiting other women.
Sanguine (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) is a sweet manicurist who trades buffing nails for boffing Jeannot. A glitch when she attempts the transition to sex-for-money lands all the main characters at the police station, where a flashback structure takes hold as love-besotted Marie learns of Jeannot’s duplicitous behavior.
After Jeannot goes to prison, pic becomes considerably more scattered, although it still offers a few quirky jolts of viewing pleasure. The harsh specter of desperate social inequality makes an abrupt incursion into what has previously been a suspiciously egalitarian tale.
Olivier Martinez enters the picture as an unemployed young man who plays a crucial but sketchy role in Marie’s reformed life. Sabine Azema does an off-kilter cameo as a needy woman who crosses Jeannot’s path. Other noted thesps also make brief contributions to the proceedings.
An early scene in which Jeannot teaches Marie how to dodge a slap — as pimps are expected to beat their women — is wacky and touching at the same time, as are shots of Jeannot doing dainty household chores while extolling the virtues of the pimping lifestyle.
As always, Blier explores the transforming power of sex, and, as usual, his script is peppered with extravagant zigzags of behavior and emotion. Helmer’s patented style remains original but seems somehow less vibrant than it once did, his last fully realized outing being the 1989 “Too Beautiful for You.” His trio of pics with Grinberg (“Merci La Vie,””Un Deux Trois Soleil” and this), though shot through with distinctive, sometimes daring ideas, don’t quite coalesce.
Widescreen lensing is aces throughout, filling the expansive, somewhat unreal span of the frame with intimate compositions. Blier’s dialogue, a key component of his hermetic universe, is both well observed and provocative. Some of the pic’s nicest touches are in the playful score, which trades off between a selection of impossibly self-assured Barry White ballads and the eerie, soaring chorales of Gorecki.