Dry Cleaning Movie Review

Sexual tension seeps from the sprockets ofevery frame of film in "Dry Cleaning," a French import abouta 40-something husband and wife on the verge of mutual midlife crises whoare seeking some way to revive and rivet their humdrum lives.

Their desires start out simply enough -- the wife (Miou-Miou,"The Eighth Day") just wants to take a little vacation -- butwith her workaholic husband pinching pennies, she starts locally by dragginghim someplace exotic they would never otherwise go, a local cabaret featuringcross-dressing, lip-syncing strippers.

But more deeply buried urges find their simple visit tosaid cabaret leading to a bizarre live-in relationship with one of theambiguously bisexual performers that upsets the balance of their marriageand begets melancholy, discontent, restrained jealousy, rage and eventuallytragedy.

The wife begins a boy toy affair with the supremely untalentedperformer (Stanislas Merhar) -- one of those fay, barely legal, heroinchic, Calvin Klein model types who just exudes sex. The husband (CharlesBerling, "Ridicule")tolerates her behavior -- which has inspired much tongue-wagging in theprovincial town where they run a dry cleaners -- in part because he lovesher deeply and is afraid she might chose the boy over him if he confrontedher, and in part because he's harboring (and trying to bury) an attractionto their guest himself.

The film, directed by Anne Fontaine ("Augustin"),follows every nuance of the toll this takes on the couple, who begin thefilm still adorably in love after 15 years of marriage. Yet it often feelsaimless and even pointless, in part because the interloper's motives fortrifling with the confused marrieds' emotions -- other than being a wildlydysfunctional deviant who needs a place to crash -- are never very cleardespite his pivotal role in the story.

Maybe I didn't get it somehow, because while I like tothink of myself as a foreign film kind of guy, "Dry Cleaning"felt more foreign than most. I got the feeling when the credits rolledthat I must have missed something.

The performances of Miou-Miou and Berling are both fascinatingfor their pent-up authenticity, which carries the movie a long way, butthe story just did nothing for me. I never understood why I was spending97 minutes with these people.


Comments

Dry Cleaning Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, In French with English subtitles Friday, May 28, 1999

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