Here's professional pianist Rémi (Patrick Dewaere) to tell us his tale of woe, which started the day he realised his marriage to Martine (Nicole Garcia) was going nowhere, as was his whole life which he had resolved to make something of before he turned thirty - an age which is six months away. After an argument with his wife where he complained he hardly ever saw her anymore in spite of them living under the same roof, she rushed out leaving the discussion hanging in the air, but if Rémi had known it would be the last time he ever saw her he would have acted differently...
Certainly you'd like to think he would have acted differently than the affair he rebounds into after Nicole's death in a car crash barely ten minutes after the opening credits, but this was director Bertrand Blier's "answer" to his own movie of a few years before, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. He was no stranger to provocative subjects, and indeed quite often the impression you got from his movies was that he wouldn't mind at all if you walked out, and would probably be quite proud of himself. That previous work had been a comedy whose premise was that the main female character rejected the advances of two grown men because she preferred to be satisfied by a teenage boy.
Beau-père meant Stepfather in French and was not to be confused by the other eighties movie with that title, the cult horror The Stepfather, though if anything Blier's film had the power to make audiences even more squeamish, for different reasons. That's because while the idea of a woman sleeping with a teenage kid could be the source of outrageous humour at the expense of the failures of men her own age who tried to court her, the idea of an adult man being seduced by a fourteen-year-old girl was a rather more uncomfortable proposition. As if to acknowledge that, the director, adapting his novel, offered a far more serious reading of the situation than in Handkerchiefs, though if anything without the laughs it made it even less palatable.
The girl in question was Marion (Ariel Besse, an actual teenager and not an actress playing younger), and she was Rémi's stepdaughter who after they are both left dejected after her mother's death decides to carry on living with him instead of her real father, Charly (Maurice Ronet). She has a reason for this which is that she has fallen in love with her guardian, and after a brief mourning period begins to come on strongly to him, determined to seduce him. Initially he resists, working out the recent tragedy has done the girl some psychological damage, but as he's not feeling too well himself what with a job he hates and a dead wife and so forth, he succumbs to Marion. Apparently the fact that it was all her idea was intended to make it more acceptable, but you may not see it like that.
If anything, Beau-père was more like an apologist's movie for grown men who want to have their wicked way with young girls: "Honestly officer - it was all her idea!" and the like. Unlike Stanley Kubrick's version of Lolita, where it may be a black comedy but you're in no doubt at the end that lives have been ruined, here we were guided to see the central relationship as mutually beneficial, even if they do move on with tears in their eyes by the final scenes. Humour would have helped, but Blier resists any send up of the romance, as if ignoring the darker elements of his tale: that is until the final shot, which comes across as if he suddenly got to the end of his film and realised, wait a second, what the hell was I thinking?! And places a disturbing thought into your mind, as if there were not enough of those as it was. Though no cheap thrills exploitation flick, it's too slow and stately for that as if trying to fool you into seeing it as tasteful, there have been more convincing entries in the cinema of provocation. Music by Philippe Sarde.
French writer-director who rarely shies away from controversy. The son of actor Bernard Blier, who also appeared in his films, he graduated from documentaries to features and seized international attention with extreme comedy Les Valseuses. Blier then won an Oscar for Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (Preparez vos Mouchoirs), and carried on his idiosyncratically humorous style with Buffet Froid, Beau-Pere, Tenue de Soiree and Trop Belle Pour Toi. Since 1991's Merci la Vie he hasn't had much distribution outside of France, but continues to work, still finding roles for Gerard Depardieu.