Mauvaise Passe/The Escort (1999)

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“You’re a bit of a dark horse, Pierre.”

With a plot that belongs to a Jackie Collins novel, the film, The Escort (Mauvais Passe) displays French actor, Daniel Auteuil as a gigolo. Auteuil is an impressive actor, so it’s no wonder he looks embarrassed and out-of-place in most of the scenes in this tawdry French film. Directed by Michel Blanc and written by Hanif Kureishi (amongst others) I expected a bit more.

Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) is a French lecturer who flees to London during some sort of mid-life crisis. He tells himself he’s going to write a novel, but it’s not too long before he finds himself beaten up and thrown out of a stripper bar. Passerby, Tom (Stuart Townsend) implausibly takes pity on the wayward Frenchman. Tom takes Pierre back to his flat, cleans him up, and the two become unlikely friends.

Tom, it seems, manages a cafe by day, but he’s a gigolo by night–and a rather high priced one at that. He introduces Pierre to the delights of a plethora of lonely women who are willing to pay for ‘company’. Pierre, who experienced some sexual hurdles back in France, takes to the lifestyle of a jet-setting gigolo with gusto. Soon he’s even on a helicopter being flown in for a ‘party’ at the castle home of the filthy, and decadent rich.

Life isn’t really a slippery slope for Pierre. He dives into his new gigolo lifestyle with no moral qualms whatsoever. He strikes up a relationship with a female prostitute who works for the same agency, and soon finds that illegal substances are a necessity. And throughout all this tawdry slumming through the seamy side of London, Auteuil never ever stops looking ill-at-ease and uncomfortable. I wonder if he feels as embarrassed as I do that he ever accepted this unfortunate role? Most of the film is in English–with just a bit of French spoken. Auteuil’s French accent makes his speeches in English almost indecipherable at times (remember The Lost Son?). Pierre’s character is utterly unbelievable, and the plot smacks of middle-age fantasies. There’s one scene that depicts Pierre at the gym for the first time pathetically trying to lift a weight bar. A couple of months into his expensive gigolo lifestyle, he’s sweating and panting furiously at the gym. Beauty has its price, I suppose. I’ve read reviews calling this film “gritty” and “realistic”. I’ll add a third adjective–“tripe”. Daniel, you’re still my favourite French actor, but you may need a new agent.

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Filed under Daniel Auteuil, France

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