The Model Couple

Dir: William Klein, 1977. Starring: André Dussollier, Anémone, Zouc, Jacques Boudet. Foreign.
The Model Couple

The Model Couple is not science-fiction, though it does induce the same paranoia and anxiety about the future that some of those films do. And while it is a story about people whose lives are on display for the world, it in no way resembles movies like The Truman Show.

The film exaggerates the borders where privacy and personal freedoms are obscured, if not removed, by a totalitarian government. Set in 1970s France, The Ministry of the Future, an organization claiming to try and make "a new city for a new man," is executing an outrageous experiment. They've chosen a seemingly “normal” Caucasian married couple to be the poster-children for their efforts. Claudine (Anémone) and Jean-Michel (André Dussollier) have been married for a couple of years. Claudine takes care of the home and Jean-Michel is the breadwinner. The two are thrilled to be chosen to represent all of France. They are brought to a compound where they will arrange a new life with the help of the Ministry, in a place dubbed "The Model Home."

State-of-the-art electronics, housewares, and furniture that have a strictly mod design are assembled in their new flat. The two will be monitored by microphones and cameras 24-hours a day, and the footage is then broadcast like a reality television show in France. Viewers are supposed to become hyper-aware of what an ideal citizen should do in every circumstance, and what is normal; the swiftness that grocery shopping should have, the proper tools for good hygiene, and even the “normal” amount of orgasms and premature ejaculations that occur during intercourse.

Oddly enough, Claudine and Jean-Michel don't seem to have a problem being observed and recorded in their most intimate moments. However, they do become annoyed and overwhelmed at their given roles within their new life. Claudine seems the most disturbed by their newly-crafted relationship. In their marriage outside of being "The Model Couple," she tried to find an equal in Jean-Michel and refused to be at his beck and call. Now she's forced to spend her day shopping, cooking, and serving him. Meanwhile Jean-Michel "goes to work" by trying out hammers and shaving razors, then telling the people conducting the experiment which one is better. All this - and they of course aren't paid equal amounts - upsets them both. At times they are asked ridiculous questions which must be met with precise answers. Within a few weeks, French citizens are allowed to enter their home and invade their privacy firsthand. The two are forced to do things to raise the shows ratings, such as argue and entertain diplomats. Soon the couple discovers that their purpose on the show has nothing to do with the progress of France, or any sort of well-meaning science. In fact, the common people protest the show and begin rioting. When they discover that they're being invaded just for the sake of invasion, its too late. They're dependent on the Ministry and must fight to stick together, even while being forced to tear each other apart.

The movie is a satire on government control, and as serious as the matter is, I really enjoyed the comical approach. In the film, is is assumed that Claudine and Jean-Michel are "normal," and while being stripped of their rights they scrap for power and something tangible to confuse and upset the Ministry. In doing so, they are labeled as “less normal” and of no use to the experiment or their country. It seems serious, but the ridiculousness of both sides really bring on some well-earned laughter. In the end, it seems funny that those in power, in reference to the film, thought that they could fully understand the common man simply by monitoring their forced actions. On that same note, the "common" characters seemed even more foolish for believing everything they were told until it was too late. The film is not only a message about government interference and control, but the weakness and consequences that come from not asking questions when authoritative figures tell you to do or believe something.

I personally found the ending to be a little jumbled and anticlimactic, but as a whole, it was put together well. I especially liked the maniacal psycho-sociologists carrying out the experiments, played by actress Zouc and actor Jacques Boudet.

Criterion released an Eclipse Series titled, The Delirious Fictions of William Klein, in which this film was released, and I look forward to checking out the others in the collection.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Jun 9, 2011 4:54pm
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