by Phil Hall

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday July 16, 2009


Bertrand Blier's off-beat 1986 comedy focuses on the unlikely triangle that develops between a mismatched married couple and the outrageous bisexual burglar who crashes into their life.

Bald, mousy little Antoine (Michel Blanc) is impervious to the open contempt that his wife Monique (Miou-Miou) expresses towards him in public.

A tirade from Monique in a caf? catches the attention of Bob (Gerard Depardieu), a larger-than-life character who slaps Monique in the midst of her badmouthing before handing her and Bob 10,000 francs each.

Although baffled by Bob, the couple follow him in his work of burglarizing mansions. Bob has an uncanny knack for sniffing out where money and valuables are hidden, and the trio are soon living a menage-a-trois existence.

However, big beefy Bob's undisguised passion for the seemingly unappetizing Antoine creates difficulties - at least for Antoine, who resents the idea of bottoming.

For her part, Monique is fine with the arrangement as long as she is kept happy with money and fancy clothing; her attempts to seduce Bob are not successful, and she wisely avoids pushing the issue.

It is only when Bob begins to muscle her out of the picture in order to keep Antoine for himself that things get problematic.

For its first two-thirds, Menage is a daring (for its time) dark comedy fueled by Depardieu's brilliantly conceived work as the oversexed miscreant.

His casual pursuit of the wrong things inevitably pays off, whether it involves breaking into people's homes (and engaging them in pleasant conversation once they arrive to find the robberies in progress) or breaking up Antoine and Monique's marriage.

Unlike mainstream U.S. films of that time, Menage is utterly unapologetic about its gay focus.

Unfortunately, the film veers wildly in the wrong direction during its final stretch, when pockets of violence and an abrupt plot swing into transvestism takes over.

It never seems like a natural progression, even for a raucous farce, and the conclusion of having the men in drag working alongside Monique as streetwalkers is more silly than funny.

But even with a flaccid sign-off, Menage manages to be wonderfully different. When it is working, the film is buoyantly original.

Phil Hall is the author of "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time