Last night we re-watched Une Femme de Ménage (The Housekeeper) from Claude Berri, the Oscar-winner director of Le Poulet, (1965) who also brought to us: Jean De Florette (1986) and its sequel, Manon des Sources (1986), those French cinema classics based on the two-volume novel by French novelist/playwright/filmmaker Marcel Pagnol.
Une Femme de Ménage (2002, Color, French) is based on a novel by Christian Oster. The charming film is laced with attitude and style typical to the French and provides a bitter-sweet look at life in a mature perspective.
Synopsis: A depressed Parisian classical music engineer in his 50s, Jacques (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is recently single having separated from his wife Constance (Catherine Breillat) who had abandoned him few months earlier for another man. On a notice board in a neighbourhood bistro Jacques comes across an ad from a woman seeking employment as a housekeeper. Over an appointment he had arranged at a local cafeteria, he meets Laura (Émilie Dequenne), a beautiful twentyish suburban woman and hires her as cleaning lady to tidy up his messy apartment in Paris even though she admits that she is inexperienced but willing to learn such works.
As Laura’s initial engagement of few hours of work on every Fridays soon advanced to three days in a week, the lonely Jacques was confronted with the pleasure and intrusions of Laura’s seductively irresistible vitality and love. Their closeness takes an hasty progress when Laura’s boyfriend broke up with her and she has to move out. Warily, Jacques accedes to let Laura to temporarily move into his apartment, a prospect which empowers her to insinuate herself into his monotonous bachelor existence.
Pretty soon, his estranged wife turns up for a reconciliation which prompts Jacques to opt for a brief holiday at artist friend Ralph’s (Jacques Frantz) house in Brittany. Laura was resolute to join him on his trip to Brittany where, sure enough, her roving eye comes alive…
Writers for screen: Claude Berri & Christian Oster
Music: Frédéric Botton
Editor: François Gédigier,
Cinematography: Eric Gautier
Costume: Corinne Jorry
Cast: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Émilie Dequenne, Brigitte Catillon, Jacques Frantz, Axelle Abbadie, Catherine Breillat, Apollinaire Louis-Philippe Dogue, Amalric Gérard, Laurence Colussi, Djura, Nathalie Boutefeu, etc.
Filmed in: Paris and Morbihan, France
- DVD/Blu-ray of most of the movies mentioned in this article is available with some leading dealers.
- DVD sleeves/images shown here are only for promotional purpose. Source: Wikipedia, amazon.com, and from movie.
- This illustrated article is an affectionate nosegay to the movie reviewed above. Please refer to “About” of my webpage for more details.
- This is dedicated to the memory of Jean-Pierre Bacri who died in January this year (2021)
(© Joseph Sébastine/Manningtree Archive)