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Q (1974)


Original Title: Q, Au plaisir des dames

Director: Jean-François Davy
Stars: Philippe Gasté, Nanette Corey, Pierre Danny, Malisa Longo, Claudine Beccarie

Review bi Dries Vermeulen (Nodriesrespect) from Brugge, Belgium (IMdB)
By his own admission, filmmaker Jean-François Davy has always had to deal with an inner duality regarding sex as cinematic spectacle. Driven by carnal curiosity, leading him directly to the well-intentioned if occasionally morally suspect semi-documentaries – whose editorial tweaking interestingly predates the current spate of “reality TV” shows (which are, of course, anything but) – on “hot” topics like streetwalkers or the fledgling French fornication film industry, his bourgeois upbringing forever kept him from fully embracing the subject as his natural habitat, a situation now redressed by not one but two impressive French DVD box sets, the director as a middle-aged man looking back on his “scandalous” past with a tenderness that comes with advancing years. The official version has Davy turning to skin flicks in the wake of the box office failure that befell his ambitious “film fantastique” LE SEUIL DU VIDE in an attempt to cut his financial losses. The passing of time has given him the courage to be more upfront about his motives at the time, a marriage of libido and the honest artistic wish to draw sex films out of their partially self-imposed ghetto – through lack of ambition – by adding involved story lines, glossy production values and competent acting performances.

The somewhat sarcastically titled Q (the sound-alike “cul” being the French derogatory term for nudies) reflects Davy’s demons perhaps better than any other of his directorial endeavors. The third installment – following BANANES MECANIQUES and PRENEZ LA QUEUE COMME TOUT LE MONDE with several returning cast members from both, the latter actually introducing most of the main characters – in what was dubbed his “trilogie paillarde” (ribald or just plain naughty trilogy) in retrospect, it’s a clear-cut sex comedy with an identity crisis, throwing in everything along with the kitchen sink in an effort to escape the erotic genre’s restraints that were beginning to cut into the director’s wrists. Nearly every single hot tabloid topic or legitimate news item of the early ’70s makes at least a cameo appearance on this occasion, be it the emergence of Women’s Lib, sperm banks, the oil crisis or crooked politicians. Set in the near future of 1980, Paris has lost much of its shining glory. A narrator informs us that there’s no longer a political left and right and that the country’s now run by a (faceless) despotic President and his like-minded Prime Minister Bolduc, played by French “boulevard theater” legend Jean Parédès who had a memorable bit part in Ted Kotcheff’s endearing WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE ? Ever escalating oil prices have seriously injured the car industry and, by extension, the Continental collective male sex drive (something of a boys ‘n’ toys deal), leaving the women of Paris permanently frustrated, liable to fling themselves at any man untouched by this national malaise ! His business about to go under, garage owner and ladies man Gilles Pilard (the amiable Philippe Gasté, part of Davy’s little repertory troupe and male lead of Max Pécas’ cute CLUB PRIVE POUR COUPLES AVERTIS) hits upon the idea of opening a brothel catering to female needs. He quickly gets his buddies to come along for the ride. Lothario wannabe Max (rubber-faced comedian Pierre Danny) wants to get out of the scrap yard business and away from his nagging wife Juliette (scrumptious Anne Libert), mother of his two sons yet desperately longing for a little girl. Lawyer Xavier (handsome Jean Roche, subsequent male star of Pécas’ masterpiece FELICIA) spends more time in the bedroom than he does in the courtroom with a never-ending succession of sex-starved mistresses and is badly in need of a break from his amorous activities. Ex-prostitute turned secretary Irma (the radiant Nanette Corey, the sexy sleuth’s mistress in Paul Vecchiali’s CHANGE PAS DE MAIN, who sadly disappeared after an all too brief carnal career) contributes extensive professional experience in training the ready, willing if not always able young men applying for a job at the house of pleasure. Meanwhile, Gilles grows distracted through a budding attraction to lovely Florence (the exquisite Corinne O’Brien, whose only other major credit was for Jean-Claude Laureux’s LES BIJOUX DE FAMILLE), whose chauffeured car knocks him down in the opening scene and who turns out to be the Prime Minister’s daughter.B Hence running against his reluctant father in law in the upcoming elections seems like a good idea…

Believe it or not, but this is barely a basic outline of the film’s plot, constantly on the verge of veering into yet another direction on a whim. You can almost hear Davy saying : “Hey, wouldn’t it be great… ?” And off we are on a different tangent, often only strenuously connected to the central theme of the whorehouse for women and the possibilities of role reversal satire it represents. Best of these sidetracks is a hilarious episode involving Max’s visit to the sperm bank, contrasting his steamy fantasies with its matter of fact bureaucratic reality, and Davy even manages a couple of decent slapstick set pieces. While fairly explicit for the time, showing full frontal female nudity, sex scenes feel rushed and are strictly employed to comic rather than erotic effect. On the plus side, fans will have a field day spotting some of the most succulent starlets of the early ’70s like Malisa Longo (star of Eurociné’s irredeemably trashy ELSA FRÄULEIN SS), Frédérique Barral, Gilda Arancio and the inevitable Claudine Beccarie in addition to those already mentioned. In addition to their Davy collaborations, there’s another trivia note uniting stars Gasté, Libert, Corey and Danny. They all appeared in the enjoyable sex farce LES COUPLES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE by Christian Gion, a filmmaker far less talented than Davy who had – on this occasion at least – perhaps a better understanding of what his audience desired. By trying to be too many things at once, Q winds up surely satisfying few of whatever its intended demographic’s supposed to be.

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