(TORONTO, ON) – Self Truth or Idiotic Folly. I am thinking throughout this film that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Angélique (Angélique Litzenburger) is a 60 year-old cabaret girl looking the worse for wear. She’s also a chain smoker like none other you’ll ever see in a film.
At the cabaret, younger girls perform exotic dances and ply men with liquor accompanied by a bit of fondling to run up their bar tab. Put bluntly, Angélique is getting no action sitting by herself at the bar, smoking, and looking like an outcast.
It’s a boozy life portrayed in this working class tragedy.
Angélique is heavily made up with a thick coating of jewellery and a stud on her cheek. She is clownish with her heavy makeup and tobacco ravaged face. The cabaret girls stick together and they take Angélique under their wing.
Angélique has a family, but the two youngest, one of which is 16 year-old Cynthia, were seized by child welfare and want nothing to do with their mother. Angélique is so liquored up she can’t even remember who Cynthia’s father was. Cynthia is with a foster family in Metz and has no contact with her family.
When all appears lost, retired miner and former cabaret customer, Michel appears and is smitten by love for Angélique. She leaves the cabaret to live with Michel, who is a jovial, compassionate, and very patient man. He’s highly likeable.
Matters progress very well to the point that Michel proposes to Angélique. She appears to settle down to a quiet domestic life, but keeps a connection and friendship with her cabaret girlfriends.
The family reunites and Cynthia comes to live with Michel and Angélique. Aside from lack of any sexual interaction between Michel and Angélique, things are just peachy.
Peachy for a time, as Angélique goes to a hot air balloon festival, gets plastered, and insists upon going back to the cabaret alone, as no one wishes to accompany her. She makes a fool of herself insulting her friends and starts a brawl.
Dear, kind Michel forgives Angélique and off to their wedding day. The sex promised by Angélique fails to materialize. Michel asks why and she responds, “I don’t love you.”
Michel is both devastated and furious. How could she say such a thing after all those wonderful wedding speeches how important family is?
She leaves and wanders the street drinking copious amounts of wine and smoking like a chimney in a bar, as the song Party Girl closes the film.
Now, of course, being a well made French movie there is more than an interesting story to tell. The question is, why did Angelique do what she did?
The film weaves a good story almost along fairy tale lines and then has you leaving the theatre thinking, “Why?” There are countless possibilities.
My take is that Angélique is a morally deficient, selfish, hedonistic, and an immature woman caught up in self-perceived glories of her tawdry past. She’s squandered a chance to live a quiet life with a good man.
Or, is she true to herself and her inner soul, corrupted as it may be? Heroine or villain?
A fascinating look into working class French society shot in a grainy and grimy way. Whoever the wardrobe master was, what an incredible job.
(Party Girl, 2014, France, Directors Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, and Samuel Theis, 95 minutes, French with English Subtitles, Part of Toronto Cinéfranco 2015 Festival, 12 April 2015, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)