Ménage a Trois: Coming of Age Under the Microscope, 11 August 2006
Author: gradyharp from United States
'Douches froides' ('Cold Showers') is a film by Antony Cordier that has been marketed in a strange way: the projected audience was supposedly the gay audience, but aside from brief frontal nudity in an innocuous gym shower room there is nothing 'gay' about this movie. Instead COLD SHOWERS is an examination of class, sport, experimentation, and emotional borderlines that are at once fascinating and frustrating.
Mickael (Johan Libereau) is from a poor working class family - his father Gerard (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey) is a boozer taxi cab driver who lost his license as a result of a DUI, and his mother Annie (Florence Thomassin) is a cleaning woman in the high school gym: they live on the edge of poverty. Not a great student, Mickael excels in judo and his life is focused on his sport and on his girlfriend Vanessa (Salome Stevenin). One of Mickael's teammates Clement (Pierre Perrier) is from a wealthy family: his father Louis Steiner (Aurelien Recoing) is confined to a wheelchair and his mother Mathilde (Claire Nebout) is a woman of the world and society. Louis decides to sponsor the judo team, buys them outfits, and asks Mickael to work with Clement to perfect his technique and prepare the judo team for a French championship.
Mickael and Clement relate well and while Mickael is a winning player, Clement is smarter and understands the intrinsic rules of the game better. An incident occurs that forces Mickael to take the position of a wounded mate and in doing so he must lose 8 kilos to qualify for the championship team. The struggle to lose weight (his body is already perfect) places stress on both Mickael and his family and teammates. Mickael and Vanessa include Clement in their camaraderie, a situation which evolves into a ménage a trois as the three have sex in the after hours gym. Vanessa reacts as though this is the greatest physical feeling ever, Clement is smitten, and Mickael has troubling doubts. When the three decide to try it again in a hotel room Mickael is so conflicted that he does not join the other two, only listening to their cavorting in the bathtub feeling inferior to the smarter, wealthier Clement. But on the judo side, the team wins the championship and Mickael's delicate sense of self worth is restored for a moment. It is the manner in which the trio of young adolescents resolves their antics that closes the film.
Though the actors are superb and very beautiful to see and hear, the character development is fuzzy and we are left with little understanding or insight as to the each of the key players. The judo action moments are beautifully choreographed and the intimacy scenes are done with taste and fine lighting but with little passion conveyed. Though we want to identify with Mickael and his methods of confronting his coming of age, there just isn't enough character motivation to make that transference entirely successful. This film feels like two movies: a judo team's antics and a class-crossed ménage a trois. Beautiful to watch, but the script could have been more carefully constructed.