Tuesday, August 09, 2016

No Casual Pleasure

I'm finding it a little difficult to begin talking about 1971's Good Little Girls (Les Petites Filles modèles) after noticing three of its stars committed suicide. One of them, Bella Darvi, the very year the film was released. The movie is an entertaining but unremarkable erotic comedy. Featuring a plot with no particular forward momentum, it contents itself with a beautiful woman and her daughters and their idle sexual games in a country manor. There's a compulsion to look for some kind of correlation between the film and the suicides. Aside from the rough and dangerous lifestyles that may have attended being involved with the erotic film industry in Europe of the 1970s, I can't see much to indicate a connexion between the deaths. Two of the women had some success in Hollywood and major European films before going to erotic films so perhaps they saw themselves as being in a hopeless decline.

Michele Girardon, who committed suicide four years later at the age of 36, had a role in Howard Hawks' Hatari! ten years earlier. She plays the matriarch, Madame de Fleurville, who appears in a sex talk show of sorts. At various times in the film, she speaks to a camera and offers advice on sex. "When one takes up golf or flute playing, one takes lessons, as far as I know," she says in one of her monologues. "You consult the manual. That's how one becomes a champion or a virtuoso. In sexual relations, the more the partners work on their technique--and fingering--the better they will be."

Extending her philosophy to her own family, she instructs her two daughters to read aloud from erotic books they find in the library. One of the daughters, Camille, is played by Marie-Georges Pascal who later became a television star in France and committed suicide in 1985 at the age of 39. The other daughter, Madeleine, was played by an actress named Jessica Dorn about whom I can find no information. I hope to-day she has a nice home in Paris where she delights younger people with tales of working in erotic cinema in 70s.

The two girls don't have a lot to do until Madame de Rosbourg (Darvi) comes to stay at the manor with her own daughter, Marguerite (Cathy Reghin). Bella Darvi is the reason I sought this movie out after seeing her steal 1954's big Hollywood production, The Egyptian, from everyone else in the film, including Gene Tierney and Jean Simmons. According to Wikipedia, she was still paying off gambling debts the year before Good Little Girls was released and she committed suicide the year the film was released after several previous unsuccessful attempts. She was 42.

I didn't even recognise her right away--her striking straight black hair in The Egyptian is replaced by blonde hair. She does little other than sit next to Madame de Fleurville for most of the film, not having an interesting scene until the end when she takes her top off at a party after a famous artist spills wine on it. She coolly asks a servant to frame the garment.

In one of the funnier moments, a woman nearby after Darvi removes her top complains about being at a party where women get naked. The woman speaking is herself wearing only jewellery, a running gag in the film about high fashion.

Those who've seen the new Absolutely Fabulous movie might recognise this gag. In the new movie, a woman at a fashion show unselfconsciously wears a gown that plunges in the back to below her bare buttocks. The oldest version of this gag I've seen is in Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 film Pierrot le Fou. I can't say I'm sick of it.

Neither Darvi or Girardon appear naked in Good Little Girls, though, suggesting to me that the two women really did feel like they were appearing in a kind of film that was beneath them. Which is too bad for a lot of reasons. Good Little Girls is far from a masterpiece but it is charming and sort of relaxing. Far from a hardcore fuck party, it's more of a drowsy fantasy, a sensual day in the country.

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