[Originally published in Movietone News 33, July 1974]
It must be a mark of our starving hunger for foreign films that Le Sex Shop has garnered such generous notices. Certainly this unassuming mixture of marital comedy and social satire deserves the benefit of the doubt, at least when shown in the dubbed version exhibited locally: the soundtrack seems full of dead air even when people are speaking, and of course there’s just no way for the unique intonations of a Jean-Paul Marielle to survive transliteration, let alone transvocalization. Marielle’s balding, swinging dentist is the best thing about the movie but, dubbed, he’s only about half a good thing. He’s one of a number of sexual eccentrics who cross the path of a petit bourgeois—played by the director himself in a role apparently carrying over from Marry Me, Marry Me—after he converts his unsuccessful bookshop into a thriving porn parlor. The nebbish soon gets caught up in the pursuit of erotic satiety, only about half against his will, and by film’s end he can get off only by having his wife describe a lascivious encounter with the dentist that never happened and that, just maybe, he knows never happened.
To his credit, Berri doesn’t let the film slip over into voyeuristic triviality (though there’s usually an uncommonly lovely nude somewhere in the vicinity) or pathological case study, but rather, stays with his protagonist’s point of view and the issue of how a sexual climate like this might affect a guy like this. Unfortunately, a certain sense of rhythm is indispensable in cinematic affairs of this sort, and I’ll have to wait for a subtitled print of the film before I can say for sure whether Berri has it or not.
LE SEX SHOP
Screenplay and Direction: Claude Berri. Cinematography: Pierre L’Homme. Music: Serge Gainsbourg.
The Players: Claude Berri, Juliet Berto, Jean-Paul Marielle, Nathalie Delon, Béatrice Romand, Claude Pieplu, Catherine Allegret.
Copyright © 1974 Richard T. Jameson