French fascinated by comic lesbian love tale

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The French public's generally relaxed attitude to matters sexual found itself severely challenged this week with the opening on the same day of an explicitly lesbian French film, and the French version of the American film Disclosure. Each has provoked considerable controversy.

The chief problem with Disclosure was the poster used to advetise it, showing Demi Moore in an aggressive clinch with the hero, Michael Douglas.

Town halls across the country were fielding angry phone calls and, in several places, the posters were rapidly covered up with other advertisements for Camembert.

The response to the lesbian film, Gazon Maudit, was more one of interest than of shock. At 6pm on the opening day there was a long and animated queue snaking its way down the Champs Elyse, getting in the way of the rush-hour pedestrians; there was another queue, perhaps even longer, at 8, and another at 10. The queues were cheerful, talkative, and noticeably dominated by females, in couples.

Gazon Maudit, roughly translated as "accursed turf", was scripted by the comedienne Josiane Balasko, and she takes the starring role of Marie- Jo: mini-bus driver, disco-operator - and demonstrative lesbian. The story is charming, and absurd, in the manner of wry French comedies. Marie-Jo, cropped hair, rugby shirt, jeans, cigarillos and all, turns up on the doorstep of a fairly ordinary South of France house because her mini-bus has broken down.

There she encounters the beautiful, but harassed wife of a loving but philandering husband; the two women fall in love and Marie-Jo stays on, provok ing ravenous and sometimes violent jealousy in the discarded husband. Eventually, the tables are turned. Former (lesbian) friends of Marie-Jo turn up; the wife becomes jealous and the husband plays table football with the three lesbians and gets out the champagne.

Then Marie-Jo asks the husband to make her pregnant, which he duly does in a scene of awkward and passionless sex; she bears his child, and the three adults are left living in apparent contentment in a mnage trois: the wife in the double bed, the lesbian in the nursery with her baby, and the husband on the couch. And the two small children of the husband and wife fully accepting things.

The film attracted huge publicity before its release. It is charming and funny and light-hearted and apparently France's first full, cinematic treatment of lesbianism, other than in porno movies. But Gazon Maudit is also totally lacking in political or moral comment. It is a rollicking comedy, almost a burlesque. The absence, particularly of moral comment, however, prompted many questions before the film was released. Josiane Balasko herself gave a great many interviews on the subject, defending her comic treatment, establishing that she herself was happily married.