Les Côtelettes

Director: Bertrand Blier


Two old grouches, of diametrically opposed beliefs, verbally slug out issues of life, death, sex and the rest in Les Côtelettes. This typically provocative piece of absurdist theatre from veteran writer-director Bertrand Blier features lively playing by Philippe Noiret and Michel Bouquet as the oldsters, reprising their roles from Blier’s stage original. The high-concept opening is absolutely typical of Blier’s greatest works, like Les Valseuses, Buffet froid, Tenue de soiree or Trop belle pour toi. Here, a seemingly upper middle-class family of three is interrupted during dinner by knocking on the apartment door. Eventually a complete stranger causing the commotion is let in. He blithely announces, ‘I’m here to piss you off.’ As in Tenue de soiree, the film plunges straight into a loony, theatrical idea in which the principals start challenging each other’s complacency.
Leonce (Noiret), who’s just left his wife and is proud of it, is a wealthy leftist, while Potier (Bouquet) is a penurious rightist. It’s an obvious, if slightly nuanced, juxtaposition of beliefs; but what’s surprising is that Blier’s script doesn’t dwell on the men’s politics. Pretty soon they find they have more in common than they thought-especially an attraction to Leonce’s Algerian maid, Nacifa (Farida Rahouadj), and a fascination with Death (Catherine Hiegel). In a cast that gives its all, there is little to choose between grizzled veterans Noiret and Bouquet, who are equally adept at venomous insults and weary philosophising.

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