Here comes Pete. Look out, he has that look on his face again. Like he has just seen a French film and is now going to slag it off. And what French film could be more deserving of a slagging than an all star cast(Huppert/B’art/Depardieu) in an erotic relationship thriller? It was as uninspiring as I expected. And yet I still went to see it. Why?
There is no reason why a film like this should necessarily be bad. Nevertheless the film is predicated on a logic that must be uniquely Gallic because it made no sense to me. Isabelle Ardant discovers that her husband Depardieu is sleeping around a bit. So she wants to test her husband. She knew exactly what to do. A pseudonym, to fool him. Except the pseudonym is not Babushka, it is Nathalie and Ardant picks a nubile young prostitute to do it for her. So B’art become Nathalie and a psychological game is embarked upon, where Ardant discovers that she is rather liberated about hearing about her husband from her young charge. Things move on and any keen eyed watcher will guess exactly where the story is going, but it is all rather glossy and the intrigue is apparently in the posh over-sexed moaning about each other. Nathalie? has the ellipsis in the title for no defined reason, except that it adds a wistful what-if to the films presentation. It is grabbing at depths the film lacks itself.
There is only one point where the film picks up. Ardant is in a car with a younger man, and he is playing Atmosphere by Joy Division. She likes it, and a discussion is embarked upon about the history of the band, and how Ian Curtis died, and the resurrection of the band as New Order. The male character is a friend of the band it is claimed, and suddenly the illusion is burst. New Order are real, and yet up to this point the whole story of Nathalie? appears to have taken place in a poorly defined parallel universe. You know, one where wives would hire prostitutes for their husbands without them knowing. Of course it would have been better if the discussion was on Kate Bush, perhaps listening to Babushka would have been the cautionary tale that this film needed. But it is satisfied with its vacant cleverness. And I suppose there will always be an audience for a film with B’art pole dancing in it.