Monday, July 16, 2007
Seemingly among the most uninteresting films Jane Birkin ever made, a closer look at the 1975 feature CATHERINE AND CO. reveals perhaps a film a little more interesting than might be assumed.
Directed by the prolific, if not always interesting, French director Michel Boisrond, CATHERINE AND CO. was part of a landslide of soft core French films that came on the heels of Just Jaeckin's EMMANUELLE in the mid seventies. It also owes more than a little to many of the Italian sex comedies of the period that would often feature either Laura Antonelli or Edwige Fenech.
What separates CATHERINE AND CO. from many of the other cheap sex comedies (which I don't mean as a put down) of the period is the surprising person that wrote the screen play, the photography of EMMANUELLE cinematographer Richard Suzuki and the amazing cast assembled around Jane.
None other than controversial director Catherine Breillat penned the original screenplay for this seemingly inconsequential Jane Birkin vehicle. Written in her early twenties when Breillat was right at the beginning of her career, the silly CATHERINE AND CO. does contain many of the themes that she would explore much more seriously in her later films such as the prostitution of oneself and women's position in modern society. I'm not trying to apply any serious meaning to the very daft CATHERINE AND CO. but Breillat's involvement in the film shouldn't be overlooked and it definitely shares some of the themes of her later works like ROMANCE and especially SEX IS COMEDY. One does have to wonder though just how tampered with was Breillat's script since producer Leo L. Fuchs is listed as co-writer. Breillat would not have long to linger on the probably compromised CATHERINE AND CO. as the filming of the intense A REAL YOUNG GIRL was close by as well as her script for David Hamilton's BILITIS.
Suzuki, whom I recently posted about over at Nostalgia Kinky, always brought something interesting to a film and his photography also makes CATHERINE AND CO. a lot better than it would have been. The talented Suzuki had just wrapped EMMANUELLE and he brings the same David Hamilton style soft light eroticism to the comic CATHERINE AND CO. and it works works incredible well, with Birkin looking positively radiant in his camera's provocative eye.
The cast is excellent and includes some of the best French actors of the period including two late great icons, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Jean-Claude Brialy. Also featured heavily is the always reliable Patrick Dewaere and in a smaller role making her film debut, ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST and NEW YORK RIPPER star Alexandra Delli Colli.
CATHERINE AND CO. is a silly but infectious piece of politically incorrect nonsense that remains very watchable just for the photography and cast. Fans of Breillat's will most definitely want to give it a look as, even in its most likely altered state, it foreshadows some of her more comic and over the top works.
For the sake of this ongoing series on Birkin, it features her at sexiest and would be released just before she chopped her hair off and filmed Gainsbourg's incredible JE T'AIME MOI NON PLUS with Joe Dallesandro.
CATHERINE AND CO. isn't a great film by any means but for the talent in front of and behind the camera it remains well worth searching down. It is currently unavailable on dvd but used copies of it on VHS can be found.