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Following the masterful adaptation of Henri-Pierre Roché’s Two English Girls, Francois Truffaut must have needed to blow off some steam. After having been forced to trim back more than 40 minutes of that film after a critical drubbing in 1971 (he would restore it to its full glory years later), it’s no wonder that the director created his most confectionery piece yet in Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me, based on Henry Farrell’s 1967 novel of the same title.

Truffaut had done comedy before. Both of his prior Antoine Doinel films (Stolen Kisses (1968) and Bed and Board (1970)) were crystalline, comedic mash-ups of the fanciful and the bittersweet. But coming off the almost austere Two English Girls, Truffaut took comedy a step backwards, removing any of the depth that marked his earlier works and replacing it with a shrill lunacy that is unlike anything in his oeuvre.

In this farcical tale, Camille Bliss (Bernadette Lafont, who appeared in Truffaut’s short film “Les Mistons”) is a sociopath serving time for murder. As she tells her life story to the enraptured sociologist Stanislas Previne (Andre Dussolier) we learn that Camille has been convicted for her killing a lover while actually murdering her father and mother-in-law and attempting to murder her husband and another lover. But Camille glosses over the truth with a series of lies to Previne, even though Truffaut actually shows us the truth behind her mendacity. As she spins her tale, Previne falls in love with her and will become yet another pawn in her master plan. Unfortunately, the sociologist is just too stupid to see the writing on the wall.

Camille is instantly one of Truffaut’s most unlikable characters, even more so than the five piggish men bumped off by Jeanne Moreau in The Bride Wore Black or the womanizing Pierre from The Soft Skin. Camille is obnoxious and vulgar, willing to screw her way up the social ladder. It’s unclear how she dupes any of the men the film as she is not as young, attractive, intelligent or clever as the script makes her out to be. But somehow she is able to manipulate her lovers into doing all kinds of malevolent deeds. Soon, Previne is on the case to prove that her murdered lover actually jumped from a church tower so Camille can be exonerated for her crimes. But he obviously wasn’t listening closely enough to figure out what his own fate will be upon her release.

Not all of the film is dreadful, and is in fact peppered with some inspired moments. As Previne learns that someone filmed the church tower accident, we soon find out that the cameraman is a 10 year old “director” who initially refuses to share his footage since it’s still in “rushes.” It’s a joke meant for cineastes, but it’s not enough to overcome the strident tone of the rest of the film.

Unlike Antoine Doinel or the trio of protagonists in Two English Girls, Truffaut paints the characters so broadly in Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me that is impossible to really care about any of them. Doinel may be a fuck-up but we have a shared history with the character and can feel his often roguish behavior. But Camille Bliss not only completely flat but annoys as well. For the first time in his career, Truffaut had crafted a movie that lacked nuance.

Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me was never released in the United States on DVD. I viewed it on an old VHS cassette with white subtitles that got lost on light surfaces, causing me to miss a good deal of the dialogue. I don’t think I missed out on much.

by David Harris

See Also: Oeuvre: Truffaut- Two English Girls

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