Les Biches (Bad Girls)-1968

Les Biches (Bad Girls)-1968

Director-Claude Chabrol

Starring-Stephane Audran, Jaqueline Sassard

Scott’s Review #292

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Reviewed December 3, 2015

Grade: B+

Les Biches (translated to mean Bad Girls in English) is a French-Italian film from 1968 about a peculiar relationship between two women, one a wealthy, gorgeous, sophisticate named Frederique, and the other a poor, waif-like, struggling street artist named Why. They embark on a tumultuous love affair marred by competition for handsome Paul Thomas, the local architect. At its core, the film delves into class struggle, lust, and violence.

The beginning of the film sets the tone as Frederique provides Why with a large sum of money as she stops to admire her art on the streets of Paris. She invites Why back to her lush villa in gorgeous Saint Tropez, where Frederique lets two outrageous gay men co-habitat with her. The household is a circus of sorts as the men prance around wildly, but Frederique teaches Why about high society and good living. Soon Paul is introduced to the story and takes a shine to Why. She calmly rejects him and Frederique then begins to fancy him, thereby emotionally rejecting Why and leaving her feeling out in the cold. The film then takes a psychologically dramatic turn as characters turn against one another.

I admire this film as it is an unorthodox story especially for 1968. Same-sex stories were not the norm in these days and the interesting key is that the classes are different. Frederique has control and power over Why because she has money. Paul admires Why, but he cavorts with Frederique. Is he genuinely interested in her or does he value her money most of all? The film never makes the distinction crystal clear, but one speculates it is the latter. Frederique uses her wealth (and beauty) to obtain what she wants- namely Paul to spite Why. Why is younger and fresher and has not been marred by the world…yet. The gay men are cartoon-like. It is not clear exactly who they are or why they live in the villa. In fact, little background is known about any of the characters.

Foreign-language films, especially of the 1960’s and 1970’s are fascinating to me- filled with life and interesting facets and Les Biches is a prime example of interesting film-making. A trip down bi-sexuality lane with two gorgeous women at the forefront of the story, both struggling for power over the other, though one with a clear advantage.

Interesting to note that at the time of release is the film was touted as a lesbian skin-flick and humorously miss-thought to be entitled “Les Bitches” (perhaps to get audiences in the door), but is hardly a sex romp- quite the contrary as the psychological elements overtake everything else.

Les Biches is an odd little adventure, but one to be appreciated and traveled with an open mind if the mood is right. Stylish and interesting and certainly non-mainstream, it challenges social norms of the day and provides certain Hitchcock-like elements, especially in the final chapter.

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