Friday, June 6, 2008

How Much Do You Love Me?

Combien tu m'aimes?; Romantic tragicomedy, France/ Italy, 2005; D: Bertrand Blier, S: Monica Bellucci, Bernard Campan, Gérard Depardieu, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Edouard Baer, Farida Rahouadj

The bald François enters a brothel claiming to have won 4 million Euros in a lottery and offers prostitute Daniela 100.000 if she stays in his apartment the whole month. She agrees but quickly discovers he has a weak heart, often relaying on his friend the doctor who forbids him to strain himself. Still, the couple enjoys wild nights, until the doctor dies. Francois still works his desk job and invites his friends to visit Daniela, but when he returns to his apartment, she is gone. Namely, she returned to her pimp Charly, but then changes her mind and returns to Francois. He admits to her he never won the lottery, but she stays with him anyway.

"How Much Do You Love Me?" is a film that has a very interesting and promising theme, the one about a man trying to make a prostitute fall in love with him, but sadly handles it in a very uninteresting and unpromising way. The beginning sets up the whole story in a refreshingly fast way, yet instead of deep psychological analysis and touching details, the film is flat, too chaotic, heavy handed and messy. Frankly, it's poor with romantic touch and some scenes don't have any sense at all - for instance, in one of them, Francois calls the doctor to check out Daniela who has stomach ache. When she takes her top off so that he can check her out, the doctor falls on the ground dead and she throws up while Francois calls the ambulance. It doesn't fit into any cohesive whole and it's rather hard to figure out what the director wanted to say. Even more, the last 20 minutes oozed off into pure absurdity, a pointless fantasy. Among the better ingredients of this solid film are Gerard Depardieu in the role of the pimp and Monica Bellucci as the prostitute Daniela, whom some critics unjustifiably bashed just because of her beauty. In the end, the film didn't manage to articulate exactly what it wanted to say, but it had one really poetic moment that deserves to be seen, the touching scene where Charly asks Daniela why she wants to return to Francois and she replies with: "Because he gave me something every prostitute would want...he returned my shame".


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