Olivier (Gerard Depardieu) has just moved to Paris, and he doesn’t have a place to stay. He asks an acquaintance in the city, Mario (Andre Rouyer), who has recently begun earning his living honestly if he may stay with him, as he doesn’t start work until September (we aren’t told what month it presently is).
His friend’s new, honest living is selling books door-to-door. Olivier helps him on his route during the day but they have no luck until he blags his way into a woman’s place who’s tub is overflowing. She’ll buy all their books if they can stop it. That done, they say to warn her downstairs neighbour and are informed she’s away on the Riviera, but the woman, Ariana (Bulle Ogier) will write a letter to let her know.
Not entirely reformed, Mario breaks into the downstairs apartment, dragging a reluctant Olivier along. They find an impressive array of fetish attire for a variety of scenes. Different areas of the flat are dressed for different types of play. When Olivier stumbles across a man in a dog cage he is startled and hurries his friend to leave but the exit is blocked by a barking Doberman. Stairs descend from the ceiling and spiked-heeled leather boots make their way down, followed by leather-clad legs, eventually revealing the woman they’d helped earlier.
She calms the dogs, the door buzzer goes and she handcuffs the men to one another and the radiator before letting in another man and leading him into an adjoining room.
Then we have the popular trope of paying a vanilla to watch/participate in a scene led by a dominatrix.
Seventeen minutes into the film and we have non-simulated boot worship, a swipe of a riding crop and piss drinking (just off screen).
The client leaves and Olivier asks Ariana to dinner. Thus begins their relationship. I don’t know what that’s called. Meet kinky?
Though the NRE (new relationship energy) is strong for both of them from day one, he is jealous of her clients and doesn’t understand what she gets out of what she does or what her clients want if it isn’t sex.
Then there is the mysterious Monsieur Gautier who may or may not be a danger to one or both of them. Ariana won’t give Olivier a straight answer about who he is—she finds personal questions very boring. Her oh-so-French reply at one point is:
I either lie or I don’t reply.
Meanwhile, Americans would punch you or tell you to mind your own damn business and the English laugh uncomfortably and run away.
There’s an implied rape-about-to-happen at one point, so that was charming. Then everything carried on as it had been. I suppose that’s realistic. Certain people think it’s their right to behave a certain way and because—to their minds—they’ve done nothing wrong—they go on as though nothing has happened.
The ending was typically European in that it just…ended, though in this case there was some form of closure so it won’t tick off American audiences as much as many films from Europe that often seem to end because they ran out of funding to film the end.
We do find out who Monsieur Gautier is, thanks to Olivier’s massive man-ego. So that was useful for the plot. Cheers, you idiot.
The costumes were by Karl Lagerfeld, so that was interesting for a start.
For a film that has the plot of a bad porn, it was written, directed and acted extremely well. Even the dog is an excellent actor. Comedy, drama. He had a range. I’m not kidding.
Speaking of animals, though, there is a for-real horse slaughter near the end. It has nothing to do with any kink scene—Olivier seeks it out to watch after a night of heavy drinking. What the fuck, Europe. That’s not okay. If you want to avoid that bit—when they walk the horse in (it’ll be obvious what’s about to happen), close your eyes until you hear people talking in normal voices about steak. It’s over pretty quickly, but it’s fairly gruesome and I’m not sure what the point was, exactly.
Much of the kink on display was authentic—one particular man appeared in several scenes in a gimp mask and gleefully suffered a variety of torments. These were dealt out to him by our ‘Mistress’ filmed from the back, but I’m guessing it was a professional, as I somehow doubt they allowed an amateur to nail a man’s penis to a board. Among other things.
There was also a pretty great (for a mainstream film) spanking scene that involved a young woman tied on all fours over a chair. All of her charms, as the Victorians would say, were on display. Olivier spanked her with a belt and teased her labia with the end of the belt. It got a little porny sometimes.
Speaking of, there was a decent number and array of kink scenes and the story surrounding them was engaging enough so even if you’re watching it for the BDSM alone it’s worth watching the entire thing.
4/5 for the horse-thing and the rape, which didn’t need to happen.