The Oldest Profession and its "Cliente"

Love can't be bought. Josiane Balasko comes close to invalidating the romantic words in her latest movie, "Cliente," or "A French Gigolo." The only French feature film making an appearance at this year's SBIFF, "Cliente," approaches prostitution from a new angle-the woman's view. Director/actress Balasko puts a man to work at the world's oldest prostitution and the woman as his client.

Judith, beautifully played by Nathalie Baye, is a fifty-one year old woman who works for a TV network and seeks pleasure after her failed marriage. Paying men she finds from escort websites, Judith makes it clear she would rather indulge in the erotic play than deal with the emotional, heart-wrenching, breaking, tearing side of love. On the other hand, her sister Ir~Ane, played by Balasko, remains determined that true love does exist. Then there's Marco (Eric Caravaca), or rather Patrick, who is a hustler trying to pay for his wife's hairdressing salon and in-laws' apartment rent. His wife Fanny (Isabelle Carre) is completely oblivious to how her husband makes his money. However she is yanked from seeing "la vie en rose," after catching Marco at work. Once the worst passes, all unravels fast. Marco promises Fanny to quit his hustling, he cuts off his escort services with Judith, and the money stops flowing in, which turns him into a scapegoat, yet he's regained his dignity-right? Not really. Marco takes us through a series of back-and-forths between Fanny and Judith-love and lust, denial and betrayal, future and present, young and old, Marco and Patrick. But, Balasko knows her audience and sedates us, sticking to one of the many romantic's pick up lines: "Love can't be bought."

Based off Balasko's 2005 novel, "Cliente" is darkly humorous. Despite the hilarious French jest, raw and outrageous (it's a shame the subtitles don't follow suit), a melancholic undertone follows the storyline, touching at mature themes such as celibacy past 40 years old, desperateness justifying immorality, and of course the big one-what is love? Thus, "Cliente" makes itself the "bienvenu" in the comic-drama category. Though a long movie, the scenes moved slightly fast for my own preference but that might just be because I like to dote on individual scenes of emotional intensity, and "Cliente" is about, well, prostitution. Nonetheless, the movie is a blast, especially for single women (no matter the age).

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