A gigolo falls in love with a con artist but who is conning who?
Take the sexual and criminal suspense of a 1990s erotic thriller and mix it with the sun-bathed French Riviera and what do you get? The answer is the fun-in—the-sun sexuality of director Nicolas Bedos’ (La belle epoque) brand new crime caper Masquerade which will take both characters and the audience on a journey of twists and turns.
The film centres around a relationship between aging film star, Martha Duval (Isabelle Adjani – Possession), and a young dancer who had his career cut short by a freak accident, Adrien Salliard (Pierre Niney – Yves Saint Laurent). To the outside world it appears that Martha has taken in Adrien who is trying to write his first novel, but it is obvious that many of Martha’s friends are not bought by the charade – and as it turns out neither should they be.
On the side Adrien is seeing beautiful young con-artist, Margot Hanson (Marine Vacth – Young & Beautiful), with whom he has become infatuated with. And while at the start they spend hours in her apartment having sex it soon turns more serious with Adrien even bonding with her daughter. But with Margot also having to spend time with her latest ‘target’ Simon Laurenti (Francois Cluzet – The Intouchables) whom she has tricked into a relationship soon jealousy comes to the surface and the question must be asked who is Margot really conning Simon or Adrien?
I must admit that it was the fact that Masquerade was likened to a 90s erotic thriller that made me first interested in it. This is a sub-genre that has largely been forgotten by the politically correct times that cinema is going through today but was the kind of films that many of us grew up on. Sitting and watching Masquerade made me remember all those times sneaking into films that I shouldn’t have been watching when I was much younger.
Of course, memories alone are not enough to keep you interested in a film and that is where Bedos’ master class of screenwriting came into play for me. I found that Bedos set the stakes high here early on with the opening scenes depicting Laurenti in court on trial for shooting Margot. From there I was hooked – I just had to know what led to that even occurring especially given that both sides of the courtroom are playing the blame game.
The biggest obstacle that I found that I had to overcome with Masquerade is that so many of the characters are unlikable. While it is obvious that Adrien is conning Martha I found it really hard to feel sorry for her. She is rude and obnoxious and while it is sad that she is living in the past and believing that she is still relevant to both the French cinema and theatre worlds it is just not enough to make her likable.
For me the real interest in this story came down to what was happening with the triangle between Laurenti, Margot and Adrien. That is where I found the screen-writing brilliance came to the fore – on one-hand Laurenti is leaving his wife and family for a much younger woman but Bedos has set up his character in such a way that you find yourself hoping that he doesn’t get hurt and the fact that he has ended up being blamed for a crime started to make my blood boil.
Then there is the other side of that story. While Adrien is a despicable character that uses his looks and charms to prey on people, I found myself completely intrigued by his relationship with Margot and I wanted to see things work for them… especially when Bedos depicted the touching scenes of Adrien bonding with Margot’s daughter. I think it was at that time in the film that I found myself realising that he was just someone that had lost his way and he needed this kind of situation to get back on the straight and narrow.
The other part of this film that I completely fell in love was the work of cinematographer Laurent Tangy (Just The Two Of Us) who uses the beauty of the French Riviera to an enormous extent throughout the film. Whether it be the amazing views from Martha’s mansion or driving along a coastal road or even the view from a beach-side restaurant Tangy captures the location so well that I found myself planning my next holiday while I was watching the film.
All I can say about Masquerade is be prepared to be taken on a ride of twists and turns. As the name of the film suggests nothing is ever as it seems in the plot but with some amazing acting performances and a captivating script you certainly won’t be disappointed in this French classic.