Nov 28, 2012

The Last Woman

 Although I cannot remember my exact age at the time (I assume that I was no older than 12) nor even the name of the film (it seemed he had an erotic interest in his daughter), I remember distinctly the first time I saw the fat froggy bastard Gérard Depardieu in a movie and I was completely astounded by his bloated pomposity and patent pretentiousness despite his rather rotund frame and flabby physique, but had I known about his long career prior to that role maybe I would have understood his overblown (and by then blown) ego. Of course, although always terribly tumescent and at least partially plump, there actually was a time when the name Gérard Depardieu was not totally the source of ridicule and disdain as notably demonstrated with his strikingly macho and marvelously misogynistic performance in the X-rated Italian-French flick La Dernière femme (1976) aka The Last Woman aka L'ultima donna directed by Italian auteur Marco Ferreri (Dillinger Is Dead aka Dillinger è morto, Tales of Ordinary Madness) – a filmmaker known for his oftentimes mirthful yet misanthropic and mordant films – being one of the best examples. Maybe it was the fact that I watched a version of the film dubbed in German, but in La Dernière femme Depardieu seems all MAN (at least until the last couple of minutes) and brazenly and unabashedly so. In short, seemingly non-French, which is quite the feat for a crouton actor unless you’re Eddie Constantine (who being born Edward Constantinowsky to a Russian father and Polish mother was not actually a true blue butterfingers). Of course, being a sexually potent mensch in his prime in spiritually-castrated post-war Europa, especially France of all places, the crude yet charming character Depardieu plays in La Dernière femme – directed by a clownish cine-magician of misery – is decisively doomed to fail, thus the real question when watching the film is how, when, and why. The single father of a blond baby boy, Gerard (Gérard Depardieu) quite literally has his hands full in between working to provide for his son and changing the little lad's reeking diapers, so he does not have a lot of time to search for a woman and possible pseudo-mother, so (un)luckily, one very beautiful lady named Valerie (played by buxom brunette Italian actress Ornella Muti; a woman with a Neapolitan father and Estonian mother) practically falls into his lap, but little does he realize that things are about to get much harder than dealing with the delight of infant droppings on a day-to-day basis. 

 Vaguely Cavallone-esque in nature, especially in spirit and most certainly during the last couple minutes of the film, La Dernière femme might be named Man, Woman, and Baby (not that title 'The Last Woman' does not do the job), if for the sake of its sardonic mundanity, but certainly no title could possibly articulate the complete and utter psychological degeneration of protagonist Gerard at the whim of what he sees as nothing more than a pathologically addicting walking-and-talking biological flesh wound. Opening with a straining sourpuss score at the site of a somber and sterile industrial plant that the ‘every-man’ engineer hero happens to work at, we are immediately introduced to gutsy and gracious Gerard who – due to his exaggeratedly extroverted personality and belligerently boastful behavior – is in stark contrast to his spiritless surroundings. Seemingly a man who refuses to take shit nor gruff off of anyone, Gerard soon confronts one of the bigwigs at his work site – threatening him to “get out of here or I’ll kick your ass” – despite not even knowing the man nor whether he could be fired because of his bold yet bellicose actions. Little does Gerard know that soon-to-be-inamorata Valerie has already assumed the role of surrogate mother to his infant son. When he comes to the daycare center where his little boy stays during the daytime, he finds the babe crying as Valerie somewhat curiously attempts to get the little lad to sup on her remarkably ample teat. Initially scared of Gerard and his devilish yet philistinic charm, Valerie finds him to be a natural protector when he comforts her after a large German shepherd randomly claws at a window. Gerard gives Valerie a ride at her request and on the way back they run into the luscious lady’s lover – a 50+-year-old man of wealth. In front of the elder yet more elegant man, Gerard has the gall to say to Valerie: “Choose – Tunisia, or home with me.” Of course, she chooses her gallant blond knight in shining armor on a motorcycle and the rest is history. Before he even knows her name, Gerard has invited Valerie into his apartment, undresses her (in front of his infant son, no less), mounts her like a champ, and his damning addiction to the precariously carnal is in full swing. Needless to say, for the remainder of La Dernière femme, Valerie – assuming the role of both mother and wife as a sort of mousy femme fatale who has the 'nefarious' plan of wanting a family as opposed to material wealth thus breaking completely with convention in regard to the timeless female archetype – never leaves the apartment, at least for any lengthy period of time, thereupon eventually draining – quite literally and figuratively - Gerard of his formerly virile and vehement manhood.

 It should be noted that Gérard Depardieu gives the 'performance' of a lifetime in La Dernière femme that more than exceedingly eclipses his role as the sexually potent commie lead in Bernardo Bertolucci’s less than epic sociopolitical saga 1900 (1976) aka Novecento. Totally disrobed for an abounding portion of the film despite his already somewhat flabby physique, even in the presence of at least three beauteous women at once –  Depardieu even flaunts a full and genuine erection in a couple scenes, thereupon making the unpredictable (but nonetheless foreshadowed) conclusion of La Dernière femme all the more perniciously potent and penetrating, if not positively paralyzing. That being said, it should be no surprise to viewers of the film that La Dernière femme was banned virtually everywhere outside of debauched post-war Europe, including the U.S., upon its initial release and remains virtually impossible to find today in any official format despite the fact that Depardieu was nominated for best actor for his performance in the film at the César Award ceremony in 1977 (which he later won for his roles in Jean-Paul Rappeneau's Cyrano de Bergerac and François Truffaut's The Last Metro).  I am sure that many people went to see La Dernière femme expecting to get some sort of perverse masturbation aid, thus making director Marco Ferreri's capricious choice ending for the film all the more provocative in retrospect.  If any auteur filmmaker had the intrinsic ability to make his audience members simultaneously laugh, cry, get-off, and become stick to their stomach, it was indubitably ferocious yet funny Ferreri; the delightful 'Duce Supremo' of deranged yet debonair exercises in celluloid cynicism.

-Ty E


MoonRisk7 said...

Where, oh where, oh WHERE can I find this film????????

John Handcock said...

Sites like CG and KG.