BATHERS, THE (Les Baigneuses)

(director/writer: Vivian Candas; cinematographer: Daniel Teruggi ; editor: Claudine Dumoulin; music: Daniel Teruggi ; cast: Jean-Pierre Kalfon (Lebel), Ann-Gisel Glass (Nana), Grégory Fitoussi (Nico), Nadège Beausson-Diagne (Rita), Carolkim Tran (Kim), André Marcon (Le clochard, homeless bum), Charlie Bazire (Justine), Laurence Gormezano (Fame), Aissa Maiga (New Girl); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paulo Branco; TLA; 2003-France, in French with English subtitles)

“Not much here to get hot over.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time writer/director Viviane Candas creates not enough of an involving story to keep me fully focused on this view of diverse erotic dancers in a Paris peepshow, all conforming to some stereotypical archetype and in all frankness are rather dull types. The attempt is made to catch the sleazy atmosphere of a peepshow located in the back of an adult video store and also lay down a dramatic story to show the human interest side to the working ladies. The porn show is run by the greedy businessman Nico, who is always nervous about the cops closing him down and watches like a hawk the six or so girls he employs to perform an erotic sex act in a mirrored room where the customers pay to masturbate over them in a cabin. Nico frets that live peepshows are a dying breed, as customers prefer videos. But Nico obliges by also selling videos, as his dumpy place remains one of the last in Paris to keep the peepshows going.

The Oriental Kim is the star of the show because of her supple and erotic dance movements. The busty African Rita sings while performing, and one of the songs is about being a bather on the Rue St. Denis. Justine is the youngest. Fame is seeking an acting career while trying not to be locked into porn–which is termed as a dead-end for an aspiring legit actress. Nana is is a drug addict, who is popular because the customers crave blondes and she does ananimated incest act. A new girl takes over when Rita is fired for bringing to work her sister’s baby. She needs the money to support her husband who is out of work and he encouraged her to take the job.

A mysterious morose stranger named Lebel turns up at the peepshow and asks to meet Nana, who looks like the wife he killed a long time ago for posing nude for pictures. Lebel has just been released from prison and believes Nana is his daughter. All the working girls take to him and make a strange bond to help this very confused man. Lebel is also helped by a homeless bum who is a street beggar in the neighborhood, and knows a lot about the girls’ private lives even though they are secretive. Once Lebel and Nana get together, there’s not much to say except it’s all dirge-like and sparks little interest. It might satisfy in small degrees that the women are shown courting only things like financial security, possible fame, and personal gratification, and are no better or worse than other working women in legit fields. But aside from the sleazy mood set, there’s not much here to get hot over. Even the erotic dance routines seemed sexless.