With a plot wispier than its heroine’s frequently removed knickers, Q follows fun-loving French saucepot Cécile (Déborah Révy) as she teases and seduces practically everyone, male and female, in her small seaside town on the English Channel (or as the French prefer la Manche) while her adoring boyfriend, small-time crook Chance (Johnny Amaro), remains oblivious.
With a plot
wispier than its heroine’s frequently removed knickers, Q follows fun-loving
French saucepot Cécile
(Déborah Révy) as she teases and seduces practically
everyone, male and female, in her small seaside town on the English Channel (or
as the French prefer la Manche) while
her adoring boyfriend, small-time crook Chance (Johnny Amaro), remains
oblivious. Or is he? Among her conquests, she separately
seduces married businessman Yves (Patrick Hautier) and his vulnerable wife
Virginie (Christelle Benoit), whose
marriage is on rocky ground after an unexplained trauma, and cocksure young
mechanic Matt (Gowan Didi). But is Cécile really
more interested in Matt’s beautiful girlfriend, the virginal, repressed Alice (Hélène Zimmer)? And just what does she have planned for
her troop of dissatisfied, sexually frustrated friends?
Opening as he means to go on, at crotch level, director Laurent Bouhnik invites us to spy on a
group of young women as they take a lengthy communal shower, the camera framing
them mid-thigh to shoulder, offering us a long, lingering gaze upon their wet
flesh; jiggling breasts, tight buttocks, neatly trimmed genitalia, but
crucially not their faces, as they frankly discuss their sex lives, their
partners, their fantasies.
Anyone happening across Q expecting nice, safe Amelie-style
whimsy is in for an eye-opening 103 minutes. Sure, it’s full of cute, kooky French girls with eyes as big
as saucers. But most of them are
being frigged off in a toilet. Essentially inverting Pasolini’s Theorem where Terrence Stamp’s beautiful stranger shags every member of nice bourgeois
family and causes chaos, Bouhnik’s Cécile is as much an agent of
liberation and force for rebirth as she is of chaos.
Cécile may use sex to lead the other characters (especially
the males) a merry dance but ultimately the change she catalyses is positive;
couples are brought together, the lonely find comfort, women take control of
their own sexuality. Cécile
herself, unable to cope with the grief of losing her father, only finds solace,
and some measure of eventual redemption, in her string of random sexual
The latest in a long, not particularly distinguished, line
of arthouse flicks that blur the lines between explicit, simulated sex and
so-called “real” sex, there’s almost an inevitability to Bouhnik dedicating Q to Cyril Collard and “all those who still believe that love means
something.” Bisexual author and
filmmaker Collard, who died of an AIDS-related illness just three days before
his autobiographical film Savage Nights
(which he directed and starred in) won four Césars
in 1993, was a sexual and artistic provocateur, unapologetic in his raw
portrayal of sex and sexuality and with his graphically explicit depiction of
real sex Bouhnik is striving to achieve an emotional and intimate honesty that
the best of Collard’s work typified.
Bouhnik coaxes intense, powerful performances from his cast of mostly
unknown, amateur actors while bucking the trend of arthouse erotica like Intimacy, Romance and 9 Songs
where the sex is portrayed in a rather po-faced, serious and, ultimately,
boring fashion with an unapologetically joyful celebration of sex and sexuality
reminiscent of John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus.
While it’s neither as erotic nor as subversive as it
thinks it is and there will always be a certain lasciviousness when a
middle-aged man seeks to depict a young woman’s sexuality, Q is an unashamedly frank voyage of self-discovery.