Monique is an ingenue,a clueless girl,who believes in true love ,for her Fiancé is a handsome man ,and anyway at the time (early twentieth century) ,marriage is the only thing a decent girl... See full summary »
The plot of this film is trivial and subversive at the same time. Director Jacqueline Audry appears to have a fascination for things queer; 'Olivia' is quietly Lesbian, and 'Huis Clos' is one third Lesbian. Both these films however had superior actors than 'La Garconne' which according to certain taglines is about a 'woman living as a man'.
The main character is a romantic heterosexual who flirts with the 1920's club scene where, disillusioned by a boring 'straight down the line' straight man who cheats on her, she becomes 'liberated'. This means that statuesque Andree Debar (no great actress unlike Feuillere and Arletty as Lesbians in the other Audry films) plays her character coldly as a visitor to planet diversity and does not act with conviction. She has a female lover (discreetly). There is a young man who appears to be bisexual and is prone to male striptease, and a few other admirers including an ageing professor who writes a play about her life. She glides across the surface of transgression with an appalling lack of any sexuality and the only time she succeeds is a cigarette smoking moment where strangely Debar is at her sexiest. The end I will not reveal except to say that she looks her best when the tepid plot is resolved.
What makes this film truly important however is its concentration on the gay scene of the 1920s. Lesbians come out better in representation than the men who like men who are presented in images of effeminacy and uselessness whereas the women really make their presence known. This is especially true in one scene where the main lesbian character buys a woman at a night club auction which could come straight out of a Hollywood Arabian Nights. She then goes off with her female companions to enjoy the bought woman (off-screen). Later, in counterpoint to the rigidly straight ending, she sings a torch song to women who are truly 'garconne'. She is the best character in the film and really 'out' unlike the Debar character who tries to strut freedom but ends up - well, no spoilers but it is tragically conventional. Proust is also mentioned and in a way this is a sort of third rate 'Sodom and Gomorrah'. And yet I praise the film for its audacity. It was made in the late 1950s in a repressive France. Like England it was for adults only, but it was shown uncut, whereas in more repressive England it had to be cut for its X certificate. (I expect it was the auction and the male striptease that went.) But for those who want to see the '50s do the Paris gay scene of the '20s this is a must. I give it 10 for, as I said, its audacity, at a time when absolutely no openly queer characters appeared in French film. I also cannot imagine this film having been made in Hollywood or England whose films of the time had all the 'maturity' of 'Doctor in the House'.
Audry is to be saluted as a woman director who dared to do what the males refused to do, including the straight down the male and female line of the Nouvelle Vague.