It's taken three years for the French kooky when not kinky confection Paulette to turn up in US theaters, which is not unlike the rare appearance of older women in starring roles on screen, if at all. That is, when not stereotypically playing shrews, dingbats or witches.
And which is hopefully indicative of a rebellion of sorts, not just as defiant characters grabbing a rare spotlight front and center in movies, but older actresses receiving long overdue recognition in their own right. And the late Bernadette Lafont plays just the sort of brutally forthright French elder babe doing exactly that, in the insightful when not inebriated satirical outing, Paulette.
A shameless, ranting racist Parisian who brutally speaks her mind at any opportunity against people of color and the mounting immigrant French population, Paulette is similarly unkind to her black son-in-law and young biracial grandson. Which one might say tends to land her as a leading proponent in the ranks of bad grandparenting.
But as it comes to light that the anger mismanagement widow is a victim herself of the EU economy in shambles - having lost her restaurant and currently consigned to a pitiful pension and picking out her dinner from the local garbage dump discards - peculiar pity sets in for this damaged but apparently not entirely unredeemable bitter woman. Which is exactly what transpires when Paulette quite by accident crosses paths with the drug dealers on duty at her ghetto housing project, and rather strangely rises in the ranks herself as a major weed supplier in the Parisian hood to make ends meet and then some, don't ask.
At which point this contact high comedy turns somewhat terminally silly, as if filmmaker Jerome Enrico decided to light up too and ran out of any further bracing ideas along the way. But that rare and complex senior spotlight on screen of Lafont who sadly passed away in 2013 at the ago of 74, for the most part transcends that excessively daffy detour.
On a side note, the not surprisingly defiant thespian and only child, disappointed her mother who had always wanted a boy to name Bernard. So when she gave birth to a girl instead, the peeved parent blamed Catholics in general as proof that their God either was blind or didn't exist. Along with often dressing her daughter as a boy she would call Bernard instead.
ARTS EXPRESS ON AIR
**I'll See You In My Dreams: Actress Blythe Danner reflects on the highs and lows in rites of passage for her both on and off screen, of older people. And her starring role along with Rhea Perlman and Sam Elliott, in this bittersweet tale channeling the female experience of aging. And the cross-generational bonding that awkwardly kicks in. DVD release September 1st.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE
**Mexican Dream: Migrants, meatpacking plants, labor struggles and Mexican minimum wage workers in Minnesota. And a tale of two countries, as economically desperate migrant workers journey from Mexico to Minnesota to toil in the grueling meatpacking factories and slaughterhouses there, among the unwelcoming white population. And what it has to do with difficult worker solidarity, crushing unions, and a Nelson Mandela mural. All part of a new documentary, in a discussion with the filmmakers, the ironically titled Mexican Dream.
**Writers Corner: Miguel Gardel mines as memoir his conflicted past doing time as a Latino soldier in the US military, reading from his short story, Up On A Hill.
Arts Express, Thursdays 2pm ET: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY 99.5 FM, and streaming live and archived everywhere at wbai.org.