Thursday, October 22, 2015

Kung Fu Master! aka Le Petit Amour

Mathieu Demy and Jane Birkin.

You know what would make a good double feature with this movie? Max, Mon Amour. In Max, Mon Amour, Charlotte Rampling plays the wife of a British diplomat in France. He suspects her of infidelity. She finally admits it's true. She gives a very sensitive portrayal of a woman in love with a chimpanzee at the zoo, and the husband looks like a jerk for not immediately accepting it.

For some reason, movies in the '80s presented adultery as a sign of emotional depth. It was a Reagan-era self-centered yuppie thing. I didn't know this during the '80s because I didn't watch that kind of crap back then, but I've since learned that this was the case.  Robert De Niro was in one called Falling in Love and there was Peter Bogdanovich's They All Laughed.

I heard that one poor wretch took too long to get funding for his pro-adultery '80s movie. It didn't get made until the '90s and, by then, people were appalled by it.

I would put this movie, Kung-fu Master!, aka Le Petit Amour, (1988) in the same broad category. The French movie stars Jane Birkin as a middle aged divorcee who falls in love with her daughter's 14-year-old (male) classmate (Mathieu Demy).

If it had been about a perverse middle aged woman going after a bewildered tweenager, or about a delusional 14-year-old hitting on a grown woman, it would have been more plausible. But the two seemed to be on the same wavelength. The attraction was mutual.

I really don't know what they saw in each other. The kid, Julien, is less obnoxious than the other boys in the movie, but his defining features were that he was short for his age and that he liked an '80s video game called Kung Fu Master. Jane Birkin was 42. She first sees the kid when he's sitting on the floor in the bathroom. Her daughter (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has thrown a party. The older boys had fun getting the little fellow drunk and now he doesn't feel so good.

"Just throw up," she said.

"I can't."

"Open your mouth."

She sticks her fingers down his throat. While he's puking into the toilet, she tells him it's revolting, drinking at his age. She tosses him a clean tee shirt to put on. Later, she takes a cigarette out of his mouth, tells him he's too young to smoke and smacks him when he talks back.

Jane Birkin's two real-life daughters play her daughters in the movie. Her elderly parents play her parents. Director Agnes Varda's teenage son plays Julien.

Imagine having your mom direct you in your make-out scenes.

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin.

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