A bored teenager befriendsa girl with venereal disease, who has been persuaded by a doctor to infect as many men as she can in order to provide him with patients.
Of the French directors who came to prominence in the 70s, Bertrand Blier is one of the most distinctive, his black humour and anarchic disregard for sexual taboos continually confronting accepted social mores. Certainly in Les Valseuses, Preparez-Vos Mouchoirs, Tenue De Soiree and, latterly Trop Belle Pour Toi, he manages to offend just about everyone; his new film Merci La Vie is no exception.
Drawing on his first big hit, Les Valseuses, Blier reverses the roles of the boorish male anti-heroes in that film to give us a female road movie which makes Thelma And Louise look like Bond sex kittens. To further attempt a synopsis of this stylish, violent satire would be fruitless; suffice to say that Camille and Joelle (Gainsbourg and Grinberg respectively, both eminently watchable) are the two friends who become fugitives, camille from her parents and Joelle from the men she has unwittingly infected with syphillis as part of a devilishly immoral campaign engineered by a doctor in need of custom (Depardieu, convincingly unscrupulous) to start an epidemic.
Whether the pair ultimately win over the excuses for manhood in this film or are merely rather gutsier victims than most, and whether the misogyny on display is Blier's or that of his characters is not entirely clear. Offensive it may be, but driven at a cracking pace - through image shifts from black-and-white to colour, through period changes from present day to the Occupation, and through cultural references from the war to AIDS - Merci La Vie is still an undeniably exciting, often funny, and thought-provoking ride.
An undeniably exciting, often funny, and thought-provoking ride.