Movie Review: Filles Uniques (French)

Even the producers of Charlie’s Angels could learn a lot from this movie.

The Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) is organising the International Film Festival of Mumbai. Reports say that over 100 films from 34 countries are being screened. Last week, on a visit to Andheri West, I saw the Fun Republic theater and decided to check it out. They were showing some of the movies of the festival and I saw the French film Filles Uniques* by Pierre Jolivet.

The movie is about a judge (Sandrine Kiberlain) and a street character (Sylvie Testud). Testud is arraigned for stealing some expensive shoes at a store. Kiberlain gets Testud released by effecting a clerical error. She then involves Testud in a sting operation against a pimp. Meanwhile, Testud starts sleeping in Kiberlain’s house because she has nowhere to go. The pimp walks into the trap and gets arrested. The two women become friends but soon it is time to separate. It had developed into an almost daughter-and-mother relationship. So, they decide to go shopping and judge manages to steal an expensive pair of shoes. Testud then returns the shoes to the store. She accomplishes this by yelling at the shopkeepers for trying to taunt them buy the shoes by intentionally misplacing it in their bag. Kiberlain is investigating a fake casino tokens scam. She decides to stage a sting operation there and takes Testud with her. Unfortunately, Testud develops cold feet. She refuses to testify against the casino and leaves. Two cops offer their testimony and Kiberlain has to agree. The case fails but Kiberlain refuses to give up. She finds Testud and they both decide to take on the casino case again.

A friend who was with me felt that movie ended uprubtly. He was also upset that there was no nudity in the film. The film was about how two women went out of their way to accomplish tasks that no one expected them to in the first place. And, they did this with great aplomb. They accept their failures and grow stronger. I just imagined what would have happened if the movie was set in Hollywood or Bollywood. The judge would have been a karate black belt and the delinquent would have been an expert in fisticuffs. They would have punched their villains and made their enemies wish they were never born. Fille Uniques is a tribute to women as well as a mockery on male stereotypes in traditional cinema. Even the producers of Charlie’s Angels could learn a lot from this movie.

The movie is billed as a comedy and it did have all the ingredients of good humour and irony. There is even a case of a psycopath who disembowels his victims and plays with their intestines. Kiberlain, as the devil-may-care judge, is wonderful. Testud’s performance was so real, it was hard to tell if it was only acting. The tickets cost only 60 rupees and was worth it. The snobbish crowd that haunt film festivals can be a dampener. They seem anxious to prove they can read the subtitles and get the jokes.

* – Only Girls

† – Peter Greenway offers a lot of graphic nudity in his Prospero’s Books scheduled for Thursday 3 p.m. this week. Before Internet and VCDs became popular, film festivals were the only source of uncensored movies. Festival organisers are still trying the old trick but whether it is successful now or not is anyone’s guess.

‡ – Ticket prices in Bombay are way over the top. They are usually in multiple of 100. So, I never went to a cinema in the one year I spent here.