Eye For Film >> Movies >> Je T'aime Moi Non Plus (1976) Film Review
Say the words Je T’aime Moi Non Plus to people of a certain age and you’re like to be greeted with a smirk or a swift When Harry Met Sally-style Meg Ryan impression as memories of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s song, come flooding back.
The 1969 release, complete with breathy orgasm-simulation vocal from Birkin, ensured it was banned by the Beeb, which in turn, guaranteed its chart success. Seven years on, the music was to return, accompanied by a film of the same name – Gainsbourg’s feature debut and a love song to nihilism that was to tackle a whole new taboo – anal sex.
Birkin plays gamine truck stop diner waitress Johnny, whose chance encounter with a gay couple – Krassky (Joe Dellasandro) and Padovan (Hugues Quester) leads to a surprising turn of events when Krassky, despite realising that his first impressions were wrong and Johnny is a girl, decides to spark up a relationship with her anyway. The end result is a series of abortive sexual encounters as Krassky attempts anal penetration with Johnny, resulting in extreme pain on her part, the howling from which is to get them kicked out of a series of motels. Yes, for this mismatched couple sex really is a bugger - and a painful one at that.
There is no mistaking Gainsbourg’s imagery. From the initial scenes of a dead bird splattered on the windscreen of Krassky and Padovan’s dump truck, themes of death and decay are never far away. There are beautiful boys on the slag heap, while Johnny’s attempts at sex with Krassky generally involve her ‘playing dead’. Equally, erection motifs are everywhere, from the tilted bed of the dumpster in the initial scenes, Gainsbourg is at pains to remind us that the notion of sex, like those of death and decay is ever-present.
Everything is kept deliberately off-kilter, with even the movie’s title – I Love You, I Don’t Either – a direct contradiction. The film’s setting and its language are also at odds with one another. This is the epitome of dustbowl America, with its wind-swept landscapes offering little more than dots of habitation, where people are happy to run ‘poofs’ out of town as soon as look at them. Yet, on the other hand, the cast all speak French – traditionally the language of love, but far removed from that here - while the theme of a strained and destructive love triangle is one more associated with the likes of Truffaut than anything the States might produce. This is a bleak portrayal of a generation and, yet, despite this it has an eloquence and even a sense of romance.
Johnny clearly longs for Krassky, despite knowing he and Padovan despise women for the most part and though his motivations seem to be born mostly out of boredom, he longs to consummate his relationship with her. It is this combination of ugly beauty that dominates the film and the factor which ultimately wins you over. It may be misogynistic and deliberately shocking, it also has a poetry that cannot be denied.Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2007