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Noce Blanche
cast: Vanessa Paradis, Bruno Cremer, Ludmila Mikael, Francois Negret, and Jan Daste

director: Jean-Claude Brisseau

88 minutes (15) 1989
Second Sight DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
A friend of mine once opened a conversation on the blanket ugliness of French cinema's leading men with a small concession to Alain Delon, though even he was an ordinary kind of handsome. I do wonder if anyone has made a study of the men of French film and to what extent its success lies in lack of good looks in the male stars. No matter how outsized the conk, extended the chin or crooked the features, these men, with heads that had they been potatoes they would have been rejected, always get the pretty girl and in so doing fed the fantasies of a million other ugly bugs. At the time of my pal's comment it was Depardieu, Trintingent and Rochefort, but today the ascendancy of Reno and Autiel should go no way to alter her opinion. For Jean-Claude Brisseau's Noce Blanches (aka: White Wedding) the ident is filled by Bruno Cremer, the ugly bug model for any over-the-hill viewer and grotesque to download themselves into yet another May to September coupling.

Cremer is Francois Hainaut, a teacher of philosophy and the author of a single book, now out of print, of which he is down to the precious last half dozen spares on his library shelf. He is trying to coax definitions on subconscious from his students (who are made up of members of la Classe Cinema du Lycee, are any of them star filmmakers or reviewers today?) when Matilde Tessier (Vanessa Paradis) returns to the classroom following a two months absence. She fails to give a reason for her extended leave and he ejects her from the classroom but finds himself coming to her aide when she is discovered in a faint outside the building. The 17-year-old lives alone and the parents live their own mess in other cities. The girl is fragile, her father neglectful, mother suicidal, but she is immensely gifted with an astonishing foresight and understanding of all the subjects she currently threatens to flunk on. Trotting around naked in front of Hainut might also have played a part in her tutor's peaking interest though. She is about to be chucked out of the school for non-involvement, refusing to speak a word in English, though fluent and believing her fluency above that of the teachers, and claiming other subjects beneath her or outside her realm of interest. Hainaut persuades the staff to give her another chance and supervises her return to education where she begins to excel. But she is tainted by a lurid past, and she wants to steal Hainaut from his wife. They become sexually involved, but like it really needed a klaxon and loudhailer to signal that one coming. Matilde is bruised fruit though, her smack addicted brothers hooking her on the same shit. When they were out of the picture, imprisoned or missing, she took to child prostitution. Freeing herself of that depraved circle but not of the suppurating mental sores and deeply entrenched scars that continue to draw her to older men, 18 months on. Her earlier remark, "Why wait! You're born, you rush around and then you die!" was not precocious, after all, but evidence of a life lived too quickly, the memory of which she doubted she could live on with. Less a confession and more an admission, it about-faces Hainaut to see the role that he has taken, replacing the perverts of her former life. His egocentricity is a great persuader back into her bed. If philosophy cannot make a vain self-apologist of him nothing will. His wife persuades him to give the girl up, and so he does, but she orchestrates a campaign of terror against the wife. The film culminates in a confrontation with an epilogue to what remains of their lives.

Noce Blanche is calmly played in an attempt to evoke Rohmer. Soft pans and medium to long shots dominate. The histrionics are kept to a minimum. Paradis is pert and her pop past is forgotten as the trite nonsense that it is, for her performance is excellent. But this is a tired fantasy and the more dirty old French men slavering over gorgeous young things the more wearisome and incongruous a subgenre it becomes. I was bemused at a rare detail, her enclave of junkie outcasts, spotted in the background, around corners and hidden by shutters across, are represented also by a Lords Of The New Church 12-inch in her room. Characters behave infuriatingly though. As if it was not bad enough that Paradis should latch onto this dull thud of an older man, he has a beautiful wife too. Paradis doffs her clothes frequently but he keeps his middle-aged trunk well inside his buttoned up shirt throughout. Not that anyone wants to see him outside of his clothes, it simply becomes ridiculous as the film progresses and she disrobes while he stands there sewn into his suit or advancing in his cardigan. The film also succeeds in fitting in one of those classic movie niggles, the class that lasts three minutes. We don't see the start of the lesson, but it appears to start as a discussion is introduced, and then comes the bell. Or perhaps the French and American education systems are made up of potted lessons. It is like someone tried to double up a lesson with registration. In all, Noce Blanche is not a bad film, but irritating by dint of its incredulous self-importance when it is in truth no more than a sex fantasy.

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