With money in the bank from his hugely successful erotic literature adaptations with EMMANUELLE and HISTOIRE D'O, lauded photographer turned filmmaker Just Jaeckin set out to prove he was no one trick pony with MADAME CLAUDE. An ostensible thriller set in the affiliated worlds of high finance and high class prostitution, it seemed pretty much ripped from the day's headlines as French government was still trying to bring the real life Madame Claude whose real name's Fernande Grudet to justice, mostly consisting of back taxes she had managed to dodge, procuring for the high and mighty, criminals and influential politicians alike, under the cover of a Paris modeling agency. Therein lies one of the film's chief weaknesses. With dust yet to settle on the court case, the movie's attempted sensationalism (including the expected characterizations "à clef" to avoid prosecution) gets thwarted at every turn by the director's languorous style best suited to the type op upmarket porn with literary pedigree as security blanket his reputation stems from. Fortunately, the subject allows for frequent skin display, if rather more discreetly than usual, the film being passed by the admittedly liberal French ratings commission for ages 13 and over !
An international all star cast was attracted to add luster to what might have emerged as mere tabloid exploitation, and probably would have been a lot more fun if it were. Algerian born Françoise Fabian was already a highly respected movie matron, having worked with the likes of Eric Rohmer (MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S) and Luis Bunuel (BELLE DE JOUR). She brings authority and natural superiority to the underwritten title role, leaving the Mme Claude enigma intact, qualities not gone undetected by the ever derivative Italians with Armando Nannuzzi rushing his too similar to be a coincidence LOVE BY APPOINTMENT into production with the same actress. Claude caters to the world's wealthy and powerful, sweetening many a business deal with her girls' carnal charms, until the Lockheed scandal (involving not quite on the level government aircraft acquisition) and its subsequent CIA investigation makes the ground a little too hot under her feet. A paparazzo who has bent the rules a bit too often to suit his own needs, David Evans (British Murray Head, the unforgettable bisexual love object from John Schlesinger's once scandalous Sunday BLOODY Sunday), uses his connection to Claude his current squeeze being her best girl Anne-Marie (Swedish Vibeke Knudsen from Gérard Pirès silly porn parody ATTENTION LES YEUX !) to garner info to buy his way out of his predicament.
Gorgeous Canuck Dayle Haddon, who went from Disney (making her debut opposite Jan-Michael Vincent in their wholesome THE WORLD'S GREATEST ATHLETE) to dirty (playing the highly physical title roles in both Aldo Lado's LA CUGINA and Charles Matton's space 'n' sex opera SPERMULA) in record time, will stop a few hearts as Claude's reluctant new protégée Elizabeth. "Trained" by the Madame's close friend Pierre (the late Maurice Ronet, Fabian's co-star from Michel Deville's RAPHAEL OU LE DEBAUCHE), she's assigned to take the virginity of young Frédéric (an early role for much praised stage and screen thespian Pascal Greggory, who did some of his best work for Patrice Chéreau in LA REINE MARGOT and the sulfurous GABRIELLE), son of Greek shipping magnate Alexander Zakis (played by Polish born Klaus Kinski, famed for his idiosyncratic contributions to German and Italian cinema), in the surf of a sun-drenched isle while Jane Birkin breathlessly warbles the Serge Gainsbourg composed theme song "Yesterday, Yes a Day". As if there weren't enough nationalities swarming about to keep track of already, there's an Arab prince who likes to watch girls making it with each other (shocking, I know !) and much missed Robert Webber as a panty-sniffing US senator !
There's good reason why I haven't elaborated upon the details that bring about Claude's downfall as they involve the usual incriminating photo evidence and double crosses you will find in any run of the mill "policier", eating up way too much screen time. Though Jaeckin wouldn't know suspense if it jumped out of the proverbial toilet and bit him, he does manage at least one memorable set piece as wounded Murray Head, giving a commendably intense performance, tries in vain to get help from the oblivious participants at an orgy, only to breathe his last as dawn approaches. Finally given something more to do than arranging pretty naked girls in titillating "tableaux vivants", ace DoP Robert Fraisse who sandwiched this one between similar skin flicks EMMANUELLE 2 and ONE TWO TWO, RUE DE PROVENCE mines the scene for all the doom-laden atmosphere he can muster, signaling the end of the French everything goes era (the local sex industry growing ever more stringently government-regulated in years to come) more eloquently than the insipid drama that surrounds it. Even though commercially not on a par with Jaeckin's previous blockbusters, it still did well enough to beget an "official" sequel (François Mimet's MADAME CLAUDE 2, natch) as well as "inspire" many followers, the best of which might be LES FILLES DE MADAME CLAUDE a/k/a CONTES PERVERS, credited to famed erotica publisher Régine Deforges yet actually directed by our old friend Michel Lemoine.
Comedy / Drama
Comedy / Drama
Based on a true story. Madame Claude, a well connected Parisienne with dark past, runs a network of high-class call girls. She sends her girls to any place in the world to satisfy sexual desires of wealthy and powerful men. Claude's manipulations also involve big business and politics. Meanwhile, photographer David Evans is trying to clear his own criminal record by providing the authorities with pictures of Claude's girls with important clients in compromising positions. But powerful men can do anything to keep their secrets... —Steve Shelokhonov
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
April 27, 2021 at 10:43 PM