Friday, April 26, 2024

Un couple d'artistes (1970)

... aka: Artistic Couple, An
... aka: Artistique Couple, An

Directed by:
Bruno Gantillon

What are your least favorite job interview questions? The one I always dreaded the most, also, as luck would have it, the most commonly asked, is "Why don't you tell me / us a little about yourself?" It's just so broad and generic that I never know how to start or how to condense my entire being, life, essence, work experience, what have you into an appealing little blurb. Even though I know the question is coming, and coming right away, it almost always leaves me tongue tied. The last time I interviewed, which was thankfully many years ago now, I decided to make it as short as possible. Name. Where I'm from. Education. The last job I had. I probably sounded like a robot but I suppose that's preferable to sounding like a stuttering, rambling, incoherent mess. One thing I never bring up is my writing. I don't tell them about any books or magazines or websites I've written for, and I certainly never tell them about this place. Why? Well, because then they will ask "What's it called?" and I really don't want to have to say "The Bloody Pit of Horror!" How do you even spit something like that one out to positive response? The sad part is that I know know that response would be almost universally positive had I instead written about, say, Disney movies, Star Wars or comic book superhero movies.

Not that I'm at all embarrassed or ashamed of what I like. I love horror, love being a horror fan and talking to other fans, love the movies and love writing, it's just that I've experienced first hand what some folks think of all this. Yes, the stigma against horror is indeed real. Years ago, a past employer who was so extreme on the hardcore Christian scale that he considered mainstream rock "devil music" found out what I did in my spare time and never looked at me quite the same way again. In fact, he switched from friendly to complete asshole virtually overnight. To him, my tastes indicated that there had to be something wrong with me, or defective about me. Perhaps he thought I was evil. Or a Satanist. Or a serial killer. I'm not so sure, but finding myself essentially being forced out of a job that I was good at, and more than qualified for, was an eye-opening experience. It also made me wonder if potential employers are actually owed any honesty in the initial interview, outside of things directly involved with the job. Why are they even privy to details about your hobbies or interests, or how you choose to spend your free time, even though that's another FAQ?

The opening of this 13-minute short, featuring a job interview with awkward, inappropriate and invasive questions clearly meant more as a means to judge rather than determine qualifications, brought back some fun memories then. College student Catherine Berne (Martine Deriche) answers an ad and shows up at an elderly couple's home looking for work. While the husband (Paul Bonifas) serves tea, she's drilled by the wife, Mrs. Faroy (Thalie Frugès). Instead of asking your usual questions, she inquires more about the young woman's personal life. She wants to know her age (20), where she comes from (the country), about her family (both parents are dead and her only sibling is in Italy working as a painter), what she's doing in Paris (she's studying art history) and whether or not she has a boyfriend (nope). Naïve Catherine tells her too much. She's only been in Paris for a couple of weeks, so no boyfriend, no family, no friends... These answers seem to please the couple.

The job is for a live-in housekeeper and cook, so Catherine moves in right away. They share a nice dinner, Catherine complements their interesting Chinese artwork and then it's time for bed. After Catherine goes to sleep, Mrs. Faroy sneaks into another room, turns a knob and gases the girl. She's knocked unconscious and has creepy visions of the couple repeating their line of questioning from earlier. She's then taken to a room, has her head shaved and is injected with something. Whatever is happening will be ready by morning. And did I mention that the couple make money selling wax figures to a museum?

Despite being extremely predictable (granted you've seen Mystery of the Wax Museum, House of Wax, NIGHTMARE IN WAX or any number of other similar titles), this is otherwise a well-made, well-acted short with an especially impressive final shot. It's pretty much exactly what it feels like, too: A means for an aspiring filmmaker to show that he knows what he's doing and is thus worthy to advance to feature film projects, which is exactly what happened. The following year, Gantillon made Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (1971).

This is available on Youtube or as an extra on Mondo Macabro's 2005 Girl Slaves DVD release. The director didn't do any other genre films that I know of, though he did direct seven episodes of the syndicated series The Hitchhiker from 1989 to 1991.

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