“But dreams have to be paid for sooner or later.”
The films of French director Patrice Leconte specialize in examining difficult, obsessive and unusual relationships, and the film Love Street (AKA Rue des Plaisirs) focuses on the relationship between a beautiful prostitute Marion (Laetitia Casta) and Petit Louis (Patrick Timsit), a man who loves her.
When the film begins, Petit Louis–the child of a prostitute–grows up in an exotic brothel called “The Oriental Palace.” As a small boy, he lingers in the dressing rooms of the prostitutes, fascinated by their lingerie, nylons and perfumes, and when the women ask him what he wants to do with his life when he grows up, he always answers, “I’ll take care of a woman.”
Louis is already in middle age when the woman he eventually chooses to care for arrives at the Oriental Palace. It’s towards the end of the WWII, and business is booming. Marion is a beautiful, sad prostitute, and Louis’s goal in life is to find Marion a man who will take her away from the brothel and give her a normal life. This goal is practical in one sense–there’s a likelihood that the brothels will be closed by the government, but Louis also wants to create a fairy-tale existence for Marion by bringing her “true love” and perfect happiness. Louis becomes obsessed with finding the right man for Marion, and although she’s skeptical at first, she soon becomes obsessed and involved with the plan. A young man named Dimitri (Vincent Elbaz) catches Louis’s attention, and he arranges for the pair to meet. Unfortunately, Dimitri is not a perfect choice–he double-crossed a fellow black marketeer, and he’s a hunted man.
The story of Marion, Dimitri and Petit Louis is mainly told by two prostitutes to a third as they stand huddled under umbrellas in the rain. This device renders a fable-like quality to the love story, and this is enhanced by the use of ‘newsreel’ depicting Dimitri’s crimes. Louis’s guileless devotion to Marion knows no bounds, and while he loves her, it’s an unselfish love based on worship. If you’re unfamiliar with the films of Patrice Leconte, you may find the film a little peculiar. But for fans of Leconte, Love Street fits nicely with the director’s other films. Louis’s relationship with Marion is as obsessive as the relationship depicted in The Hairdresser’s Husband–another male worship of females based in childhood fantasies. The character of Petit Louis is reminiscent of the solitary man in Monsieur Hire–although Monsieur Hire could never get close to a woman, and Petit Louis is surrounded by them. Love Street contains some beautiful cinematic shots of the lovers Marion and Dimitri embracing against picturesque Parisian backgrounds, and while Love Street is not as complex as other Leconte films, it’s still a must-see for fans. In French with English subtitles.