The plot of Paulette is not new. The story of a senior citizen choosing drug dealing as a means to supplement their social security was also the plot of the 2000 movie Saving Grace.
This is one of the last performances of the great French actress Bernadette Lafont.
Lafont died in July, 2013 at the age of 74. She was an icon, considered the “face of French New Wave [cinema].” That face and her voice profoundly reveal the ravages of years of smoking.
It’s hard not to enjoy hating Paulette. A widow whose husband died on 9/11, she resents that many others died on the same day.
That day changed the world, but the world has moved on while Pauline resists living in the present.
Her husband is still her companion. She recounts to him the events of her day, the details of which are dominated by her antagonism towards the different colored people who are now her neighbors in the Cité where she lives.
That a Japanese sushi spot now occupies the space where she ran a restaurant with him for over thirty years is a constant embitterment.
Another spite was brought from her daughter who married a Frenchman of African descent. Ousmane, whom she calls “Osama,” is a cop. One day he visits her to inquire about a youth who’s dealing drugs in her building. Upon learning how much that “brat” is earning, she decides to become his competition.
A turf war forces Paulette to change her tactics and include her friends in her enterprise.
Among those friends is Lucienne played by the sublime actress Dominique Lavanant. Lavanant was a founding member of Le Splendid, a comedy collective akin to Second City in the quality of humor and stars it has launched.
Paulette is an enjoyable movie. Despite its American style feel-good ending, it is distinctly French in its lack of political correctness and insouciance about whom it may offend.
France, 2012, 87 min., French with English subtitles
Saturday, November 22nd at 7:00pm at Plaza Frontenac