"Homosexuality was invented by a straight world dealing with its own bisexuality," noted the late great complexity known as Kate Millett. Clearly an epigram that Oscar Wilde, if he'd been born a century later, would have been proud of parenting.
Director/writer Marion Hill's debut film, Ma Belle, My Beauty, has its verbally clever moments, too. Always delightfully adult, this offering, however, doesn’t deal with labels. No one seems to really care about the gender of the soul you are shacking up with or their ethnicity or their knowledge of wine. Well, the latter might not be true. "Let’s all just be happy" might have been the theme here, except Bertie, a jazz songstress, is currently not being very cheery. . . and she's in denial about why.
Well, let's start at the beginning. Once upon a time in New Orleans, before the film even begins, a straight French man (Fred) was involved with a bisexual woman (Bertie), who was very involved with her lesbian lover (Lane). This polyamorous trio all apparently lived gleefully together until they didn't. You see Lane disappeared one day without leaving a note. The cause: another gal.
(Before we go any further, please note polyamory is defined as "the practice of engaging in multiple romantic (and typically sexual) relationships, with the consent of all the people involved." Also, be aware that BRIDES.com is insisting as of this past July that polyamory "is having a moment." A previous such moment occurred, it notes, during the hippie era.)
Well, let’s jump ahead two years to where Ma Belle begins. Fred and Bertie are now married and living in an enviable home in Anduze, France, itself a visual paradise with a population clocking in at 3,400 amiable inhabitants. When nothing else is happening on-screen, your eyes can feast on the village’s centuries-old cobbled streets, a castle or two of note, vineyards galore, market-day throngs, and lush fields of green through which an emotionally frustrated character can jog when her intense feelings of irritation become a bit much.
Fred, portrayed by the exceedingly attractive Lucien Guignard, is a jazz musician with his own band that is about to tour Europe. Think Django Reinhardt. Complementing his skills is Bertie (Idella Johnson), a quite superb songstress, who has recently lost her lust for performing. To get her back to crooning, Fred secretly invites Lane (Hannah Pepper), a knapsacking free-spirit who might just be able get Bertie singing once again both off and on the mattress as she did in the past. But can Bertie ever forgive her?
The odds are 50/50 because being in love with Lane is similar to what the artist Kaari Upson described as "a constant state of something coming from the outside that you can't control, and everything can be gone at any minute."
Lane comes as off as one of those strong Beebo-Brinker-types: sinewy, forthright and always seemingly in control, yet 10% fucked up. Bertie is more in the Earth Mother category with a body that seems ever ready to comfort, nurture, and inspire Joni-Mitchell song lyrics. She's about 25% fucked up.
Those percentages of F.U.-ness do admittedly rise and ebb throughout the film.
For example, early on to woo Bertie back into her good graces, Lane beds a highly horny, 25-year-old, former Israeli soldier named Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon), whose six-pack would put Xena the Warrior Princess's to shame. Fred questions Lane on this odd strategy. She insists she knows what she's doing.
But does she? And why is she even trying? Or as Bertie puts it: "What the hell happened in your life that you want to come back into mine?"
If Lane's reply is acceptable, will a gleeful polyamory reign again in this household? And will Bertie start jazzing up her vocals and go on tour? And when the ladies go shopping and forget to buy ginger, can Fred still cook up his famous ginger beef for a dinner party that night?
Director Hill has noted in a recent interview: "I set out about three and half years ago wanting to write a story that would be a love story reflective of my own experiences with love and the people around me." If this beautifully-shot, engaging tale is indeed a true reflection, the expression "over the Hill" will now be seen as a major compliment.