The Cannes Film Festival Caméra d’Or prize for Party Girl (released under the title Mil noches, una boda in Spain) appears to be legitimately earned, as a way of seeing things differently distinguishes the directorial style of Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis, a trio of film school graduates who have reunited for this, their second film.
The film tells the story of 60-year-old dancer Angélique, with the leading role taken by Angélique Litzenburger, who plays herself alongside other non-professional cast members (often her family). The result is an ideal combination of realism, fiction and genre.
Angélique lives in a small room above the bar where she entertains clients at night, dances and drinks with friends. In the morning, she does chores, visits her family and old pals.
The night scenes — filmed with tender melancholy and without any hint of voyeurism — alternate with the preparation of morning coffee and the cleaning of her little room furnished with a bed and an old chest, where family photos are neatly arranged. In this mundane life with its routine celebrations any change becomes a extremely dramatic event. That’s why, when an ex-client Michel (Joseph Bour) — proposes to her, Angélique feels equally elated and confused. She is taken by the attractive possibility of comfortable life but at the same time she does not want to give up her old habits: beloved places, friends and, perhaps, romantic pursuits.
This movie is most interesting in how the clichés play out: how, in fact, people are similar in their expectations, how class conflicts or stereotypes can divide then unite us. Angélique’s passion for flashy clothes (brassy blouses with animal prints) and the tattoos of Michel mean same thing in the sense of class. However, the movie stays elegantly away from making similarity a means of unification. Michel’s love for Angélique lies behind him inviting her children to his house, giving them money, taking them to local markets for horse riding or hot air balloon events but prevents him accepting her drinking with her friends and smoking “in his house”. At the same time, one of Angélique’s children (who in his own words “shares his mother feelings of freedom”) does not support her attempt to put the wedding off, because she has a “chance to start a normal life”.
While intruding into the space of its characters, the movie examines the habits of those who belong to the same class, age and profession. The curious camera explores Angélique, offering us many variants of her face — surprised, engaged, habitually tuned to adventure. It also captures her endless eye and hand gestures, the latter boasting cheap jewellery but still strangely elegant. This movie with a seemingly exotic theme about an ageing provincial nightclub dancer is totally stripped of exoticism.The Party Girl is a perfect embodiment of a feminist idea of a woman who genuinely combines motherhood and passion for adventures, tenderness and strength, freedom and need to fulfil her duties.
Amachoukeli-Barsacq, Burger and Theis made a movie that is a true reference (in the sense of adherence to the traditions of Jean Rouch) to Cinéma vérité, showing that ambiguity is the only true privilege of fictitious reality that can’t probably be achieved in actual reality.
Edited by Amber Wilkinson
© FIPRESCI 2014