Dry Cleaning

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Anne Fontaine

REVIEWED: 05-10-99

The middle class aren't featured much in French cinema, so it's heartening to see in Anne Fontaine's film that they're as clueless and uptight as the rest of us. But, being French, perhaps sexier and more tragic. As austere and crisp as the title suggests, performed with poignant nuance, Dry Cleaning takes a familiar tale of repression and release and makes it seem fresh and lightly starched.

After meeting with some fellow business owners in their charmless provincial town of Belfort, Nicole and Jean-Marie Kunstler (Miou-Miou and Charles Berling), proprietors of the local dry-cleaning establishment, take a walk on the wild side by visiting a drag show. There they meet Loic (Stanislas Merhar) and his sister Yvette (Nanou Meister), who augment the gender-bending appeal of their act with a soupçon of incest. The Kunstlers botch the artistes' offer of an after-hours foursome, but once Yvette has disappeared into the night with some rough trade, the humdrum spouses can't quite shake Loic from their fantasies or their lives.

As the loyal wife who's tired of spending her life cleaning up other people's shit, Miou-Miou is demure and winsome, sensuous and tough as nails. As the stiff-limbed, anal husband who's not sure just what he wants from the endearing, ambiguous Loic, Berling (who bears a disarming resemblance to John Waters) generates annoyance and pathos. Despite a messy ending, Dry Cleaning does justice to its dirty laundry.

--Peter Keough

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