Sunday, May 25, 2014

Streaming à la française: Dujardin's & Lellouche's crass, funny, smart THE PLAYERS (Les infidèles)

When I first heard about Les infidèles -- which I believe translates as The Unfaithful, but was instead titled THE PLAYERS for its American release -- I was excited at the prospect of seeing one of my favorite actors, Gilles Lellouche together with Jean Dujardin, whom I am always happy to view in any kind of "normal" role rather than his "stunt" performances in the OSS 117 series or his Oscar-winning The Artist. While The Players came and went from theaters in a blink-of-an-eye limited release this past April, here it is already on Netflix streaming.

The subject here is ostensibly infidelity, but it's really more about men, the male libido, and the many outlets for sex that modern times gives us guys. And while you could hardly find two more attractive and sexy males than Messieurs Lellouche and Dujardin, what this movie does best is hold today's male and his near-constant urges up to close scrutiny via a comedic and satirical approach. The characters played by these two French stars are paragons of just about nothing virtuous at all. They're generally crass, dumb and as self-satisfied as they are self-deluded.

The movie's style is to tackle its subject via nine (maybe ten: I think I lost count) stories that range from three or four minutes in length to maybe 15 or 20 directed by eight filmmakers (including Dujardin and Lellouche). Two of the three shortest segments (all directed by Alexandre Courtès) are also the funniest: the first, a breath-takingly vulgar and hilarious visual joke, the second (starring Guillaume Canet) a new "take" on the almost-found in-flagrante-delicto situation that builds to a fast, shocking and darkly funny visual punch line.

The longer segments are varied in both length and success, though there's not a one that doesn't deliver a few laughs and entertainment while provo-king some interesting thoughts. The first (directed by Fred Cavayé) and final segments (directed by Lellouche and Dujardin) deal with the same two friends who like to go out together (leaving their respective wife and girlfriend at home) to find some nice young ladies to fuck -- often together in the same hotel room. Notes one, as they clean up their private parts after the girls have left, "You know, a shrink might say that that guys like us who are Don Juan types are actually gay." Bullshit, insists the other.

The pair are seen again on a trip to Las Vegas, as they fight and make up and try to get laid and finally discover their "better natures."  This finale's a fitting tribute to all sorts of ideas... and celebrities. There's also an amusing Unfaithfuls Anonymous episode, in which the group leader is played by  none other than that crack French actress Sandrine Kiberlain (below) -- who is very funny.

Another long segment, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, goes on past its sell-by date but does provide a look at Dujardin as a woefully obtuse womanizer. Yet another episode (below), the most serious of the bunch and the only one directed by a woman (Emmanuelle Bercot), nails the idea of truth-telling and what this can do to a long-term relationship.

Perhaps the best of the bunch is the one (below) starring Lellouche as a "happily married" dentist involved with a teenager (Clara Ponsot, below) whose behavior and activities quickly begin to show him (and us) how over-his-head he is in his "relationship" with this youngster. As directed by Jan Kounen (Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinksky), this episode is both smart and sturdy.

As usual with European films vs the American model, many of us here in the good 'ol USA -- particularly those used to viewing mainstream blockbusters -- complain that the actors and actresses aren't good-looking enough. No. Instead of all of them being cut from the same cloth, European performers tend to look real. We're also not used to movies willing to serve up a dose of entertainment that nails the male to the wall.

So, those of you who can take it, "stream a little stream" of The Players and see how you well you survive. You can find it now on Netflix. And maybe elsewhere, too.

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