The Girl is bad

Among tepid lesbian movies, this one stands out

There are lots of bad lesbian movies. Then there’s The Girl.

A bad lesbian movie in a class all of its own, The Girl wants to be art so badly that it’s willing to sacrifice character, story and the patience of the audience to get there.

Based on a short story by Monique Wittig, renowned French feminist and literary theorist (Les Guérillères, The Lesbian Body) and directed by her partner Sande Zeig, The Girl dons the trappings of film noir to tell a tale of obsession, lust and jealousy.

Looking like a very special Sapphic episode of the soft-core TV show Red Shoe Diaries, the film meanders around the lives of two nameless women in Paris. The Singer (Claire Keim) performs in a smoky nightclub and fucks whomever she chooses.

On a whim she chooses The Painter (Agathe de la Boulaye) with the understanding that, as she says, “I don’t usually do it with a woman but it’s just one night.”

That The Painter already has a girlfriend seems to trouble no one, including the girlfriend. But one night turns into many as The Painter becomes enthralled with her glamorous lover, pursuing The Singer despite her indifference and dalliances with men. One of these men, conveniently called The Man, owns the club where The Singer performs, and has designs on owning her as well.

You just know it’s going to end violently. And it does.

But if you’re expecting a sexy neo-noir thriller in the mode of Bound, you’re out of luck. Instead, The Girl is frustrating and repetitive: The Painter waits, The Singer beckons, they fuck, The Singer kicks her out, The Painter walks the banks of the Seine.

The characters exist in a vacuum, with no names, no histories and nothing to talk about. In fact The Man has no dialogue at all, an artificial and pretentious conceit that turns him into a glaring mute. The Singer is particularly remote and inscrutable; her attraction to The Painter is explained by, “It’s like being with a beautiful young man.”

Even the supposedly hot lesbian love scenes are disappointing- more posed than passionate – with The Painter (a boyish butch icon in her black tux) revealing no flesh while The Singer lets it all hangout.

Although it has a free-form jazzy feel and is stylishly shot, the film keeps the audience at a cool distance. Solemn and sultry, The Girl wants to be a provocative addition to the art film canon. She’ll have to settle for being a footnote to the history of lesbian cinema.

The Girl, in French with English subtitles, opens Fri Aug 17.

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Culture, TV & Film, Toronto, Arts

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