Change My Life (2001)

 Fanny Ardant is an incredibly talented and versatile French actress, and the drama Change My Life (Change Moi Ma Vie) gives her a role that allows her to display that talent. Ardant plays Nina, a neurotic, pill-popping has-been actress who’s just returned to Paris from years in Russia. Nina gave up a promising acting career to troop off to Russia with her lover, and now that romance is long gone, Nina is back in Paris, hoping to pick up her acting career. In the meantime, since the phone isn’t ringing off the hook with acting jobs, Nina has taken a job in an art gallery owned by her friend, Nadine (Fanny Cottenon).

change-my-life1When the film begins, Nina is floating around Paris. The term ‘floating’ refers to her chemical state. Agitated, needy and neurotic, Nina is already popping pills when in one great scene she sits down in a cafe and proceeds to harass a male customer sitting at the next table. This incredible scene focuses on Nina–her paranoia, tension and hysteria, and unable to contain her deep need for human contact on any level, she initiates conversation with a man who has the misfortune to be sitting at the next table. As a viewer I felt as uncomfortable as the poor sod trying to eat his meal in peace. Nina is neurotic, but even she senses on some level how she must appear to the customer in the restaurant. Further humiliation leads to more pills, and finally she collapses in the street and comes to the attention of a strapping young Algerian runner named Sami (Roschdy Zem).

Later, Nina contacts Sami to thank him for his help and then she discovers that Sami works as a transvestite prostitute. At first shocked and horrified, Nina eventually becomes part of the transvestite community, finding acceptance and friendship among the disenfranchised Algerians.

Oddly enough, Nina and Sami have a great deal in common. While Nina struggles to recapture her acting career, Sami dreams of becoming an Olympic level runner again. In this relationship between two damaged souls, somehow they provide a fragile stability for each other and reawaken hope for their lost dreams.

While the film touches on the broader social problem of Algerians without papers struggling to survive in France, the plot largely ignores the social and political aspects of the film, concentrating on the relationship between Nina and Sami. Sami is part of a silent, invisible French underclass–one of many young Algerian males–the flotsam and jetsam of French colonialism–who wash up in Paris. As Sami suffers through humiliating and sometimes brutal encounters with Parisians, the irony is that Algeria was screwed by the France, and the film illustrates how Algerians are still being screwed–literally in this case–by French citizens as they sell they only thing they have–their bodies. Change My Life is not Fanny Ardant’s best film (see Colonel Chabert) but it’s certainly worth catching. From director Liria Begeja

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Filed under Fanny Ardant, France

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