Lulu, femme nue
(Lulu in the Nude)After a job interview gone wrong, Lulu sets sail leaving her husband and three children behind. But being a carefree adventurer is easier said than done. Along the way, our discreet heroine will have three key encounters: with an ex-con being protected by his brothers, an old woman who is literally being bored to death, and an unhappy waitress who's being mistreated by her boss. The surprise of love, the comfort of female intimacy, and a case of misplaced compassion are the three movements in this fugue which help Lulu find an old acquaintance she has lost touch with: herself.
- Karin Viard as Lulu
- Bouli Lanners as Charles
- Claude Gensac as Marthe
- Pascal Demolon as Richard
- Philippe Rebbot as Jean-Marie
- Marie Payen as Cécile
An opening job interview, where Lulu (Karin Viard)
is both turned down and flat-out insulted by a macho HR director, gives us a good idea of what this 40-something mother-of-three is up against: a world where women her age, especially those who never worked professionally, have a hard time finding a steady job, let alone their share of independence.
she purposely misses her train home
When she misses her train back home, Lulu is forced to spend the night in the sleepy seaside town of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, located in the western Loire valley.
When she misses her train again the next day, it’s clear that something is up, and thus begins a rather bizarre, semi-permanent vacation where Lulu ditches her husband, kids and financial security in order to live life on her own terms.
she stays in a cheap hotel
First up is a fling with the gruff but kindhearted Charles (Bouli Lanners, excellent as always),
in an offbeat romance that -- despite the presence of Charles’ two wacky brothers (Pascal Demolon, Philippe Rebbot) -- is played less for laughs than to show Lulu finally crawling out of her shell.
A scene of her swimming naked -- thus the film’s title -- is the perfect illustration of this, especially since it’s seen from the viewpoint of her sister (Marie Payen, looking like she could actually be Viard’s sister), who stops by to bring Lulu home but realizes she may indeed be happier on the run.
Yet when Lulu spots her sis and daughter (Solene Rigot) spying on her, she hits the road once again, this time winding up as the companion of an elderly woman, Marthe (Claude Gensac),
whose purse she tries to snatch in one of the movie’s funnier moments. As the two strike up an odd sort of friendship, the film settles down to become a rather classic, and predictable, two-hander—one that grows slightly tiresome in stretches, even if a subplot involving a young waitress (Nina Meurisse) and a vicious café owner (Corinne Masiero) maintains interest.
Nina Meurisse as the abused waitress
Working once again with co-writer Jean-Luc Gaget, Anspach crafts a solid, if simple, narrative, and the early sections involving Lulu and Charles’ affair provide some of the more captivating sequences. It’s unfortunate, then, that things shift gears soon afterwards, although the writer-director does make some intriguing changes to the source material (originally published in two separate volumes), ultimately making Lulu less a women adrift than a symbol of midlife female empowerment.
she stays in a cramped trailer with her lover and they dine on freshly caught lobster cooked by his brothers.
Karin –for which she received the Best Actress César award –
does a good job downplaying Lulu’s quandaries, offering up the kind of scaled-back performance she’s perfected in recent films like Cedric Klapisch’s My Piece of the Pie and the underrated On Air. Very much like Catherine Deneuve in last year’s On My Way, yet with less panache, she aptly portrays a provincial French woman thrown into a rather hostile new world.
The coastal locations feel particularly gloomy, using a pale color palate filled with blues and grays, while confining interiors to a few cramped spaces – a trailer, an apartment, a cheap motel room – that underline how much Lulu’s newfound freedom isn’t necessarily a comfortable one.