Last year’s film Normandie Nue showed whether actor François Cluzet could carry a film without sidekick Omar Sy. Or indeed, without anything at all – not even his boxer shorts.
After starring in 2011’s Intouchables, he became, well, untouchable. So Normandie Nue was a gamble. I caught it on DVD this week.
The enduring popularity of this cinematic genre – Calendar Girls and The Full Monty are great examples – would suggest that this vein of film still bears mining.
The premise is that Cluzet is mayor of a struggling village in rural Normandy. The local farmers have taken to blocking roads to draw attention to their plight – but to little avail.
Then an American photographer arrives in town and wants to shoot the whole village naked on a hillside.
At first, the mayor is against the idea but soon realises it could help the village. So he sets about trying to convince the locals to take part.
The idea divides the village and allows old rivalries, jealousies and insecurities to come to the fore.
Two farmers feud over a land title, a former beauty-queen is prevented from taking part, and members of a Parisian family react differently to their new life in the country.
Of course, there’s a romance too.
Ironically, while the characters in the film take some convincing to strip off, the same wasn’t true of the cast. Director Philippe Le Guay says he found it easy to find actors who were willing to appear naked.
Only one person was reticent – the star himself, François Cluzet.
“While the characters in the film take some convincing to strip off, the same wasn’t true of the cast”
The film itself was no box office smash. I got it as part of a three-DVD set. Say no more.
If the aim of the film was to show a village overcoming their differences and working together to build a better future, it did its job. But not in the way you might think.
Half of the 750-strong Orne village of Mèle-sur-Sarthe, where the film was shot, took part in it. Being in a film together – nude – has, they say, brought them closer.
Cluzet’s standing remains undamaged. As for his dignity, well…