Saturday, December 3, 2011

Running Wild: François Truffaut's Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me (1972)

Shot in 1972 just after his epic masterpiece Two English Girls, Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me is admittedly minor Truffaut but it has its charms such as its star, the always-incredible Bernadette Lafont, one of the New Wave’s most valuable and iconic players.

More than anything else, Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me is meant as a tribute to Lafont’s incredible comedic skills and natural charms. Truffaut obviously wasn’t attempting any grand masterful work here and the when the film succeeds it is mostly due to Lafont’s energy which is never less than infectious.

Truffaut needed a bit of a break after the draining Two English Girls, and Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me worked towards his desire to “make a gay film” after finishing “a sad one.” Describing Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me during filming as, “a mixed salad between Shoot The Piano Player and The Bride Wore Black with a sprinkling of The Mischief Makers.” Truffaut seemed to realize that the film would be a bit of a transitional work for him and that’s exactly what it is.

Based on a an American novel which Truffaut said had him, “howling with laughter at every page” the famed director never had anyone else in mind for the film’s lead character other than Lafont, and he admitted that he immediately saw her, “superimposed over the deeds and gestures of the heroine in the novel.” After securing the rights to the film from Columbia, Truffaut recalled that he “still needed to convince Lafont”, and that, “it took no more than making her listen over the phone to my riffling the pages of the book.” to do it.

After recruiting writer Jean-Loup Dabadie to help him with the script, Truffaut found the making of Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me to be a pleasurable one, mostly due to his great working relationship with Lafont. Truffaut also enjoyed the idea of making a comedy where he could, “film a story whose characters are all crazy.” He would also note that it would be, “his least sentimental film” and that more than anything else he wanted to, “get back to the best moments of Shoot The Piano Player.” While the film never reaches those heights there is much to savor in the lovely photography of award winning Pierre-William Glenn and the vibrant supporting cast including Claude Brasseur, Charles Denner, Daniele Girard and frequent Jean Rollin player Michel Delehaye.

Despite having Truffaut, Lefont and composer Georges Delerue attached to it, Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me failed with the public and critics when it was released in 1972 and it has become one of the least regarded films in Truffaut’s impressive canon. Truffaut continued to value it though and three years after its release as The Story of Adele H. was stunning audiences and critics, the director would call Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me, “the most controlled, coherent, and complementary” film he had ever made.
Time has begun to be kind to the film as well. Robert Ingram had much praise for the film in his 2004 Taschen guide to Truffaut and would write that Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me is, "richly comic on several levels", and that, "the dialogue is frequently very funny...and the pace is literally breathtaking." Compare this enthusiasm to Don Allen's take on the film in his 1985 study on Truffaut where he stated it was like, "the disconnected ramblings of the analyst's couch", and that it was, "tenuous and self-indulgent". Perhaps Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me just needed a little time for viewers to recognize the pleasures which are there.

More than anything else, Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me is a frenetic and slightly crazed tribute to Bernadette Lafont, whose mere presence makes the film a success. Annette Insdorf in her book on Truffaut called Lafont’s character in the film, “one of his most liberated heroines, vulgar and vital, a gambler with life and death.” A minor work by a major director perhaps, but as a celebratory teaming of two of the New Waves most memorable figures, Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me more than deserves an American DVD release.

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