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  Trout, The Cold Fish
Year: 1982
Director: Joseph Losey
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Jeanne Moreau, Daniel Olbrychski, Jacques Speisser, Isao Yamagata, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Roland Bertin, Lisette Malidor, Craig Stevens, Ruggero Raimondo, Alexis Smith, Lucas Belvaux, Pierre Forget, Ippo Fujikawa
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Frederique (Isabelle Huppert) was a teenage girl, she noticed how the men in her village treated girls like her: not too well, pretty exploitatively, in fact, and made up her mind not to fall into that trap. The village was situated on a river, where trout would be farmed, and she would help out around the business, but some years later she had already begun to think up methods of getting ahead in life, and currently she had married a childhood friend, Galuchat (Jacques Speisser), who was gay and therefore not someone either she could satisfy sexually nor he her. They had devised an art fraud scheme to generate cash, however, and when a group of bourgeois moneyed types showed up at the couple's bowling alley haunt, they went into action...

The Trout, or La truite as it was called in French, was director Joseph Losey's penultimate film, though one he had been trying to make ever since the nineteen-sixties when he was planning to put Brigitte Bardot in the lead role. Once he finally got it completed, the reaction was lukewarm at best, and many put that down to his casting of Huppert in the Bardot role; Huppert was many things, but a "sex kitten" (as BB had been termed) was not one of them, which lent what could have been a perversely reticent drama about the denial of pleasure into something a lot more chilly, more of an intellectual exercise. When the male characters become preoccupied with Frederique, we're meant to accept it is her incredible allure, but with this star, you began to wonder.

There must have been another reason for the obsessions she engenders in the men, you think, is it her sparkling personality? Nope, she is, as the title suggests, a cold fish, so what else can be the attraction? That's when a vacuum made itself plain at the film's heart, and that's why so many did not respond to Losey's efforts back in the early eighties, it gave you no motive for what had drawn these lustful and possibly over-romantic men to this woman. While that would have been a flaw identified by more than a few viewers who opted to give this a go, it did lend an icy sheen to the proceedings, rendering the males as flies caught in the web of a black widow spider rather than led by their libido into doing Frederique's bidding in a fun, if frustrating dance of the sexes. There was really very little fun about what she gets up to.

In fact, there was a Cronenbergian, clinical quality to the proceedings, as if there was some kind of science fictional explanation for what we were seeing, watching human behaviour like scientists trying to discern proper motive in bizarre behaviour. The fact that the protagonist has, you have to presume, remained a virgin all her life is portrayed as a triumph for her personally, for it proves she can have her cake and eat it too without giving anyone else so much as a slice, a curious sort of femme fatale who promises much but never pays off. Yet anyone with an ounce of sense would see she was never going to allow herself to be seduced at any point, and therefore the attraction continues to be a mystery; she may giggle a bit, and seem like she's having fun sometimes, but she never even meets those she interacts with halfway, not friendly, and certainly not sexually. She's ambivalent about everything. That this state of (non) affairs sees her progress in leaps and bounds through the business world that welcomes her in for mystifying reasons did not speak to realism, but it did make for a strange experience. Music by Richard Hartley.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Joseph Losey  (1909 - 1984)

Cerebral, at times pretentious, American director, from the theatre. His American career (The Boy with Green Hair, a remake of M, The Prowler) was short-lived due to the Hollywood anti-Communist blacklist, and Losey escaped to Britain.

Almost a decade of uninspiring work followed, but come the sixties he produced a series of challenging films: The Criminal, Eva, King and Country, Secret Ceremony, The Romantic Englishwoman and Mr. Klein, and Harold Pinter collaborations The Servant, Accident and The Go-Between. He even directed science fiction like The Damned and Modesty Blaise. Not always successful - he also has turkeys like Boom and The Assassination of Trotsky among his credits - but his best films have a cult following with a particularly European flavour.

 
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