Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Michael Nyqvist, Pio Marmai
Director: Marc Fitoussi
Running time: 98 mins
Rating: M (drug use, offensive language) In French with English subtitles
Verdict: Wry and beautifully observed story of mid-life marital infidelity.
The new film for French cinema's leading lady has nothing to do with the fabled Paris cabaret of the title. Writer-director Fitoussi, for whom Isabelle Huppert created the charming and exasperating middle-aged teenager Babou in 2011's Copacabana, creates a wry and beautifully observed story of marital infidelity at mid-life. Huppert plays Brigitte, the 50-something wife of Normandy beef farmer Xavier (Jean-Pierre Darroussin from Kaurismaki's Le Havre and the great Jean Becker's Conversations with my Gardener).
A dutiful housekeeper, she also assists him in preparing his prize Charolais bulls for the show ring, although her working clobber (fur hat, flared trousers, poncho) mark her out as someone more at home on the Champs Elysees than in the country. Xavier, by contrast, live and breathes beef: he reads cattle magazines in bed, argues with chefs about beef cuts and monitors the sheds by webcam.
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He loves Brigitte, too, in his own way - her name is his computer password - but we sense her deeper longing. A heavy-handed symbol of her discontent is the recurring eczema on her chest, though the need to see a Paris dermatologist provides a good cover story when she decides to chase up a much younger man (Pio Marmai), with whom she has had a mild flirtation at a local party. Once in the capital, she gets more than she bargained for.
Surely the only love story to feature a both dermatological condition and a Danish periodontist (Michael Nyqvist, from the original Dragon Tattoo films), this is a marvellously grown-up romance full of unexpected twists (Xavier follows Brigitte to Paris and that plays out unpredictably too).
A couple of subplots involving an immigrant worker and the couple's son Gregoire, an acrobat in training, feel slightly bolted on, although the latter is the basis of a sublimely poetic scene when Xavier visits Gregoire at clown school.
But the film is given life by its superb acting, in particular Huppert's beautifully subtle and textured performance (watch for the great, silent scene at a window near the end). At a time of year when holiday fare chokes the multiplexes, this is a treat for the grown-ups.
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