A student is in a bookshop looking for a text on the female criminal mind, but the specific book she wants is nowhere to be seen. She asks the assistant for help, who in turn asks the manager, and he confirms that although it was meant to be published last year, it never was. Why not? For the answer to that we have to go back one year to the tale of the author, Stanislas (André Dussollier), a young sociology professor preparing his first thesis and visiting a women's prison to conduct some interviews. The person he settled on to be the centre of his writings was Camille Bliss (Bernadette Lafont), a habitual offender who was all too pleased to offer her life story. It all started when she killed her father aged nine...
...though according to her it was merely a misunderstanding. Long thought of as one of writer (with Jean-Loup Dabadie) and director François Truffaut's lesser works, and it's true that after the first ten minutes you will more or less have the measure of the story. It was taken from a novel by Henry Farrell, the author of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and contrived to be a black comedy that saw it's female lead run rampage through the lives of the men who get in her way; although she is quite happy to attract them, she is equally happy to manipulate them as well.
Poor Stanislas is one of the chaps who gets involved with her, enraptured by her edgy but fun loving personality almost immediately as he records their interviews on his reel to reel tape machine, and eventually bringing her presents in an effort to charm her. However, it is she who is doing the charming, somewhat like a spider inviting the poor sucker of a fly into her web - it's only when the professor is in over his head and it's too late to back out that he twigs that he might have been played for a fool. Although this is supposed to be funny, one problem is that while Lafont offers an amusing performance, her character isn't exactly easy to root for.
In flashbacks evolving from the interviews we see Camille's tales of how she really ended up where she did, which began with her running away from the orphanage and hitching a lift with a simple farmer, Clovis (Philippe Léotard), who cannot believe his luck when he gets a beautiful woman to come home with him - as long as he can hide her from his mother. Camille hangs around long enough to get married to him (she pretended to be pregnant) and discover that the mother has a huge amount of cash hidden away. We presume she hasn't told Stanislas about that, but she works out a plan to get her hands on the money.
Camille takes a "grab all you can" attitude to life, and her adventures lead her to committing adultery with supposed showbiz bigshot (in his own mind) singer Sam Golden (Guy Marchand), as she is still on the lookout for greater status. Then there's the puritan eccentric Arthur (Charles Denner) who falls prey to her wiles, and ends up, well, falling literally. All the while naive Stanislas doesn't recognise that he is being set up to let Camille get out of jail - if he'd allowed his intellectualism to stop hindering his common sense, he would have not only seen through her but seen that his secretary Hélène (Anne Kreis) was the ideal girl for him, and a lot safer too. While this is never boring, it's not exactly hilarious and in truth the humour relies on the same joke over and over again; Lafont sparkles, but the dullards drawn to Camille test the patience. Music by Georges Delerue.