In 'Ma Vie en Rose,' gender confusion is treated lightly Movie review

March 27, 1998|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

At a time when sexual identity has been pathologized, medicalized and theorized to death, "Ma Vie en Rose" ("My Life in Pink") gives the subject a welcome dose of humanity and humor. With loads of style and a deft touch, Belgian director Alain Berliner takes the serious subject of sexual confusion and social repression to delightful heights of fancy, giving filmgoers a chance to re-examine their own assumptions in the most colorful, least didactic way possible.

Georges Du Fresne plays Ludovic, a schoolboy who is convinced that he is a little girl trapped inside a boy's body. With wide-eyed innocence, he prays to God to rectify what was clearly just a clerical error; meanwhile, he falls in love with schoolmate Jerome (Julien Rivere), who also happens to be the son of Ludovic's father's boss.

Because his true sexual identity is so clear to him (this isn't a case of sexual confusion, it's a case of sexual certainty), Ludo makes no secret of his inner life: He dresses up in girls' clothing and enlists Jerome in a play-wedding. But once his family's suburban neighbors get wind of his proclivities, Ludo's honesty begins to have serious reverberations for his family.

The appeal of "Ma Vie en Rose," aside from the winsome presence of Du Fresne, is its terrifically bright look, which combines the best elements of Tim Burton, Pee-wee Herman and David Lynch. Ludo's suburban environs are first depicted as almost surreal in their bright perfection; when things start to go bad, Berliner tones down his palette to chilly blues and grays.

The leitmotiv of a children's television series, the "Pam and Ben Show," which for Ludo represents a fantasy world of unconditional acceptance, provides more opportunities for Berliner to show off a wildly eye-catching imagination and dexterity with a swooping camera.

In addition to a clearly original visual sense, Berliner grasps the shifting emotional tones of "Ma Vie en Rose" with remarkable assurance. Ludo's loving mother, Hanna (Michele Laroque), at first accepts Ludo's identity, but when he takes it "too far," she becomes bitingly hostile; his father, meanwhile, has clearly achieved his own kind of peace when he breaks into the "Pam dance" (a routine from "Pam and Ben" that runs through "Ma Vie en Rose" like a silly, gestural Greek chorus).

That's the sort of purely visual communication at which Berliner so clearly excels, and it -- along with humor, understanding and a wonderfully ambiguous ending -- makes "Ma Vie en Rose" the pitch-perfect comedy-drama that it is.

'Ma Vie en Rose' ('My Life in Pink')

Starring Georges Du Fresne, Michele Laroque, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey

Directed by Alain Berliner

Released by Sony Pictures Classics

Rated R (brief strong language)

Sun score: ***

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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