Published Jun 30, 2011A fun and breezy French comedy of (21st century) manners, Le Nom de Gens mixes sex and politics for a heady brew that's characteristically French, yet moves along at the clip of a vintage screwball comedy.
Veteran French actor Jacques Gamblin plays Arthur, a prototypically French bureaucrat who performs autopsies on dead wildlife to anticipate possible pandemics, and Sara Forestier is Bahia, a half French, half Algerian, full-on free spirit who uses her body to seduce powerful right-wingers and plant radical ideas in their heads, because, as she says, men are very impressionable at the pinnacle of ecstasy.
After sabotaging a radio interview, Bahia sets her sights on Arthur, who is taken aback, but obviously intrigued. Eventually she falls for his left-winger-in-a-button-down disguise and he succumbs to her charms, despite her tempestuousness and his inability to share her with others.
Their love affair essentially spans from the election of right-winger Jacques Chirac as French President in 1995 to the election of his successor, Nicholas Sarkozy, in 2007, a turbulent time in French history, particularly after years of socialism under François Mitterrand. Far from a mere frothy escapade, the film deals with coming to grips with history, both personal and political, yet never loses its ebullient charm.
Forestier is thoroughly engaging as Bahia, the kind of flibbertigibbet who forgets to leave the house with clothes on because she's so busy talking on the phone. Her free spirited nature borders on craziness (naked, she makes it all the way inside the Metro), but the film is honest and never turns her into a cliché.
In the way Arthur is reserved and Bahia is extroverted, the film shifts tones several times, from straight comedy to domestic drama and back again as the pair deal with the chaos that comes when opposites attract. Le Nom de Gens is clever, funny and sexy. Consider it the thinking couple's date movie. (Mongrel Media)