Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is an uptight, lonely British crime fiction writer, author of the best-selling Inspector Dorwell series. She’s getting tired of plotting tales of “blood, sex and money”, so her publisher offers her to go live in his house in the South of France to try and find her muse back. The film follows her around as she tours said house, a gorgeous mansion with big open rooms, a great view and a beautiful swimming pool. She starts writing again, she goes to town to have tea in charming little cafés, she writes some more… This makes for a quiet first act, but Rampling is immensely watchable, conveying a whole complex interior life through without saying anything.
And then she gets here. Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), a foxy, blonde, bubbly, slutty little firecracker that happens to be the daughter of Sarah’s editor. Having her dirtying up the place, always talking on the phone, loud TV, loud music, not to mention lots of loud sex with strange men she brings home every night, this bothers Sarah and her writing. Yet at the same time she’s kinda fascinated by this intensely sexual young woman. She feels a novel there, but spying on Julie also feeds something else in her. We’re all voyeurs, right? In Hitchcock homages, at least, this is a given, as is envy, lust, jealousy…
How do I love this film? Let me count the ways: Ludivine’s eyes, Ludivine’s hair, Ludivine’s lips, Ludivine’s hands, Ludivine’s belly, Ludivine’s legs, Ludivine’s ears, Ludivine’s feet, Ludivine’s knees, Ludivine’s butt, Ludivine’s voice, Ludivine’s breasts… Seriously, Ludivine is the cutest thing, but she’s also full of life and personality and she’s got great comic timing. And yes, she’s got a spectacular body, and she spends the whole movie in various forms of undress. For a gay filmmaker, François Ozon sure likes to shoot naked boobies! No wonder, even though Ludivine is topless in every other scene, her bosom never failed to take my breath away.
Furthermore, Ozon presents us with two terrific, three-dimensional woman characters, the two lead actresses play off each other wonderfully, and the combination of sunny cinematography and an ominous score creates an interestingly offbeat trouble-in-paradise vibe. The third act introduces a midget girl, hysterics and thriller elements that are more ridiculous than scary, but from what I’ve seen of Ozon’s filmography, this is probably intended. In any case, it’s wildly enjoyable.