‘The Parisian Bitch’ (‘Connasse, Princesse des coeurs’): Film Review

Courtesy of Gaumont Distribution
Life’s a b****, and so is sitting through this questionable French comedy

CanalPlus star Camille Cottin brings her popular sketch show to the big screen.

It may take one to know one, but the star of French candid-camera comedy The Parisian Bitch (Connasse, Princesse des coeurs) is unlike any other woman around. Something of a cross between Bruno and Sophie Marceau, this first-class snob and major provocateur — played by actress-comedian Camille Cottin — has already caused a splash on local cable stalwart CanalPlus.

Yet as screen adaptations of similar TV concepts have shown — with the exception of Sacha Baron Cohen’s movies and the rowdy, outre Jackass flicks — giving feature-length treatment to something that works for one or two minutes can be problematic, and this gruelingly unfunny effort is another case of too much of a good thing (or a bad thing, if you find Cottin’s antics lame to begin with). Still, such drawbacks won’t stop Bitch from having its money in France, where it recently crossed the 1-million-admissions mark following a wide April release from Gaumont.

Written and directed by Eloise Lang and Noemie Saglio, who first brought the Connasse sketches to Canal in 2013, the movie kicks off with the self-congratulatory caveat: “Everything you’re about to see was shot with hidden cameras.” While that generally seems to be the case — although there are moments when the multiple angles feel extremely staged — that doesn’t make the viewing experience any more pleasurable, even if Cottin puts plenty of energy into her role as a status-obsessed 30-something who’d rather hook up with Prince Harry than get a real job.

That’s the plot on which the nonstop candid-cam gags are hinged, with many of them involving Cottin saying mean and stupid things to tourists, taxi drivers, pharmacists and random passersby, while wearing ridiculously short skirts to show off her killer legs. It seems to be a deliberate attempt to tarnish the already questionable reputation of Parisian women throughout the world, lampooning their supposed preoccupations with luxury fashion and perfectly thin bodies.

There are a few amusing moments, including a scene where Camilla (as the character is called) tries to take etiquette lessons from a British expert, leaving him politely stupefied by her rudeness. But most of the jokes involve the same over-the-top schtick found in many a middling French comedy, albeit on a much lower budget.

What Bitch ultimately shows is that when confronted by Camilla’s awful behavior, unsuspecting service industry employees have no choice but to accept such abuse with a smile. It’s rather sad and unpleasant to watch, even if the closing credits reveal the moment when the victims are finally let in on the gag, with Cottin coming over for a friendly hug. Yet unless these people were all paid for participating in the movie (it’s highly doubtful), this seems to be a case where the joke really is on them in the end, while the filmmakers will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Production companies: LGM Cinema, Les Productions de la Connasse, Silex Films, Gaumont, TF1 Films Production
Cast: Camille Cottin
Directors, screenwriters: Eloise Lang, Noemie Saglio
Producers: Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont, Sidonie Dumas, Eloise Lang, Noemie Saglio
Executive producer: David Giordano
Director of photography: Thomas Bremond
Costume designer: Beatrice Lang
Editor: Sandro Lavezzi
Composer: Fred Avril
International sales: Gaumont

No rating, 82 minutes

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