The Girl from Monaco, 2008

The prevailing stereotype of Monaco as exotic, laid back resort destination and land of fairytale – perpetuated in part by the public’s enduring affection for the principality’s most famous transplant, Grace Kelly – provides the surreal atmosphere for conscientious, Parisian attorney and self-styled ladies man, Bertrand’s (Fabrice Luchini) inopportune case of tropical fever in Anne Fontaine’s wry and breezy, The Girl from Monaco. Hired to defend a local socialite, Édith Lassalle (Stephane Audran) who is accused of killing a known gigolo with reputed ties to the Russian mafia, Bertrand’s attempt to embrace the town’s more unstructured lifestyle is soon quashed by the appearance of personal bodyguard, Christophe (Roschdy Zem) who has been hired by Lassalle’s son (Gilles Cohen) as a precaution against possible retaliation by the mob. But Christophe’s intractable sense of duty to constantly secure his client’s “perimeter” also proves to have its advantages, managing to send away the inconvenient Hélène (Jeanne Balibar) who has decided to leave her husband (and life) in Paris and impulsively follow Bertrand to Monaco in order to pursue a relationship, and introducing him to a former lover, sexy, singing weather girl and aspiring starlet, Audrey (Louise Bourgoin). But as Bertrand’s continues to fall under the spell of the interminably perky siren (a swooning that crystallizes in his truncated attempt to follow Audrey into the sea for a swim that is visually connected to a subsequent shot of him falling into a swimming pool before Audrey’s camera), he becomes increasingly conscious of his own faltering objectivity and enlists the task-oriented Christophe with helping him maintain focus on the high profile trial. Returning to the moral ambiguity and sexual politics of her earlier films – in particular, Dry Cleaning in its themes of dangerous attraction and latent sexual awakening – Fontaine’s seemingly idiosyncratic juxtaposition of idyllic setting and psychological portrait astutely reflects Bertrand’s increasingly out-of-control obsession that, framed within the context of Audrey’s fascination with iconic princesses Grace and Diana, reinforces the dark side of the fairytale.

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