September 27, 2011

Queer Review: Ma Vie En Rose (1997)

Ma Vie En Rose (My Life in Pink)
Director: Alain Berliner
Writers: Alain Berliner and Chris Vander Stappen.
Cast: Georges Du Fresne, Michèle Laroque, Jean-Philippe Écoffey, Hélène Vincent, Marie Bunel

This Belgium import from director Alain Berliner is notable for not only featuring a pubescent queer youth (something that almost never happens in Hollywood) but also uses some sublime acting, great writing, and superior direction to deliver a powerful message on the evils of bigotry.

Ludovic Fabre (Georges Du Fresne) is not an ordinary boy, in fact technically, Ludovic does not believe that "he" is a boy at all. But that is a problem as his parents (Pierre (Jean-Philippe Écoffey and Michèle Laroque) not only have difficulty accepting Ludovic insistence on dressing in girls clothes and wearing makeup but the whole family is ostracized by the neighbors, who refuse to tolerate anything "bent". Ultimately, this causes the family patriarch, Pierre Fabre to be fired.

The Queering
Ma Vie En Rose is a gorgeously sublime film about a child who claims that "he" is really a she. Don't get me started on the ridiculousness of the MPAA rating this as R. In a world where quality movies that tell the stories of queer youth are incredibly hard to come by, restricting the audience to those who would have to obtain parental permission to see it, is absurd. It pretty much beats out the MPAA's stance of "it's okay to show a guy getting his brains blown out, but a lingering shot of a woman having an orgasm is a no no" regarding Boys Don't Cry. With this rating the MPAA is officially synonymous with blatant absurdity. There is *nothing* in Ma Vie En Rose that justifies anything beyond a PG-13. I could go on but that would distract me from reviewing this wonderful film.

The opening sequences of Ma Vie En Rose, which show different couples getting ready to attend the Fabre's housewarming party, is set up to demonstrate the enforced heternormativity of the neighborhood. Therefore, right from the start, we know that anyone who violates the unspoken rules dictating societal standards will be in trouble.

As for the central character, Ludovic this is less an issue of sexual orientation but of gender identity. Ludovic is a child who believes that his true gender is feminine. At one point he explains that his second X chromosome got lost when he was being born, so he got an XY, thereby making him a girl boy. This is perfectly natural and obvious, therefore when the adults react negatively, Ludovic merely reacts with confusion. How can his parents not understand so simple a truth?

The acting is all superb, with Georges Du Fresne giving a completely naturalistic and charming performance as a kid caught between his desires and parental approval. Jean-Philippe Écoffey and Michèle Laroque both manage to convey the normal fears and anxieties of parents caught in the dilemma of doing right by their son and being turned into social pariahs by those who refuse to accept any form of diversity.

The cinematography is also noteworthy and uses lighting and color to effectively convey mood. Most of the scenes feature bright tints and shocking contrasts, except during several key sequences where filters are used to subtly create a more oppressive atmosphere, creating a clash with the brightly lit fantasy sequences.

These fantasy scenes, where Ludovic dances and cavorts with the Barbie like character Pam, are frequently filmed from his mother looking directly at Ludovic, not in the real world but where he imagines himself to be. The first occurs when she looks up at Ludovic while he is having an out of body experience and the other when she ends up frantically searching for him in a Pam billboard. This suggests that his mom's perspective is what is off and that Ludovic's feminine personality is not merely a figment of his imagination.

Strongly recommended, this is simply a great movie worthy of being seen in any lifetime, regardless of how pink.

The Rating


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