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Escort, The

Mauvaise Passe

Michel Blanc is best known here as an actor (Monsieur Hire, Tenue de soiree), but The Escort is his third film as director, after Marche ˆ l’ombre (1984) and Grosse fatigue (1994).

A more personal film than its predecessors, The Escort engages Blanc’s interest in English culture and cinema.

He started out working on a script with Hanif Kureishi, who provided the basic plot for The Escort but abandoned the project at an early stage to pursue other writing commitments. Blanc continued on his own, fleshing out the original idea of a man who is going through a mid-life crisis and ends up working as a male escort.

The central character is Pierre (Daniel Auteuil), a Frenchman adrift in London after separating from his wife and intending to write a novel. A stranger at large in a strange land, Pierre is first seen being hauled into a seedy sex club
by a hooker and then being beaten up by her pimp when he refuses to pay an outlandish fee. He’s rescued by a young Irishman, Tom (Stuart Townsend), who runs a Soho sandwich bar and offers Pierre a job when he discovers that the Frenchman is short of cash. Tom moonlights as a gigolo, and he suggests that there could be money in it for Pierre, too.

The cautious friendship that develops between the two men is nicely sketched by Blanc and his two excellent actors. The younger Tom is businesslike and in control of his actions, while the vulnerable Pierre begins to drift deeper into trouble as he succumbs to the dangers of a seedy existence involving casual sex and drugs. Blanc is clearly fascinated by his hero’s predicament and is also keen to learn from the English school of realist cinema. He makes excellent use of London locations, and the film’s lively visual surfaces are enhanced by the work of Ken Loach’s regular cameraman, Barry Ackroyd. The results make for a fascinating hybrid of British and French traditions.

France/U.K., 1999.
English and French dialogue.
Colour.
Dolby digital stereo.
100 min.

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