“Whoah!” cried Fiona as the first of Monica Bellucci’s gigantic breasts heaved into view, followed swiftly by its twin. (There are two of them. I counted.) “That’s a firm tit,” she observed, impressed. “Do you think it’s still natural, or has she had work done on it?”
I expect she has. In fact, I expect whole armies of Italian artisans have laboured mightily on each of the Bellucci norks, swathing them in scaffolding and tarpaulin as they toiled for months, plastering and buttressing, shoring up and filling in. Re-pointing. Until the Great Domes could once again take their place of honour among the Seven Wonders of the Mammarial World, as numbers 5 and 6 (counting from left to right).
The film which contained Bellucci’s bust, just about, was Bertrand Blier’s COMBIEN TU M’AIMES? or HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME?, a perfect title for a story in which, as David Byrne once sang, “Love and money are getting all mixed up.” Office worker Bernard Campan decides to hire himself a girlfriend, since he’s just won the lottery, and not unnaturally he selects Bellucci as the most promising prostitute in town, at a neon lit bar which comes with its own breathy sax score (other locations in the film are associated with different styles of music, the combination of Bellucci and Campan’s apartment producing mainly opera arias). Blier himself walks through silently as a client.
Blier generally likes to have multiple balls in the air, and constructs narrative switchbacks that flip through genres, in and out of reality, and leaven pleasure with deepest malaise. A promising plot complication with Campan’s best friend, a doctor who treats his weak heart, and seems drawn to Bellucci at the same time as he diagnoses her as a serious health hazard, is abruptly dispensed with when the doctor himself drops dead.
Enter Gerard Depardieu, a Blier regular whom I suspect helps his old pal out by taking supporting roles to help Blier get his films made (BB enjoyed considerable success in the ’70s and ’80s but few of his films have screened outside France recently). Here, Depardieu is a vicious gangster with an attachment to Bellucci, and he doesn’t like the idea of Campan buying her services exclusively. Fortunately for Campan, Depardieu’s savagery is more of a plot point than an actuality — this may be the gentlest Blier film I’ve seen, and Big Gerard gradually fades from a figure of hulking menace to a more whimsical comedy relief.
There’s also the striking Farida Rahouadj as Campan’s neighbour, calling round to complain about the volume of Bellucci’s love-making, which leads to Fiona’s favourite scene, a furious argument between the two women over whose orgasm is more impressive and sincere.
Blier has devised a weird structure, with a plot that needs to be kick-started every twenty minutes or so by the injection of fresh elements, and the ending, a big party, looks set to abandon narrative altogether in favour of throwaway jokes and music. But even this is deceptive — long forgotten plot threads come winding back in again (even if only to be dismissed once more), and a willingness to undercut reality keeps things lively. When Bellucci asks Campan what kind of office he works in, he says “I don’t know. Just an office.” And he’s right. When she asks him about his bum ticker, right at the end of the movie ~
“How’s your heart? I haven’t heard anything about it for a while.”
“It’s fine. You made it all better.”