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Ma Belle, My Beauty (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Starring Idella Johnson, Hannah Pepper, Lucien Guignard, Sivan Noam Shimon, Tony Legaillard, Franck Bouchet, Sarah Taupneau-Wilhelm, Annie Corbier, Maryline Roca, Jose Graell, Pascale Troy, Nicolas Delaffon, Axel Vidal and Philippe Soulier.

Screenplay by Marion Hill.

Directed by Marion Hill.

Distributed by Good Deed Entertainment. 93 minutes. Not Rated.

Sometimes the best art happens just by chance. Ma Belle, My Beauty writer/director Marion Hill and actress Idella Johnson met strictly by chance in their native New Orleans. However, they hit it off and became friends.

Eventually, Hill realized Johnson would be perfect for the lead role in a movie idea she was working on. Hill had never made a feature film before. (She had done a few shorts.) Johnson had never had the lead role in a film, although she had smaller roles in several indie projects.

They decided to get a bunch of other friends as cast and crew, fly to France and film Ma Belle, My Beauty.

For such a small, personal work, the movie turns out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the year – smart, edgy, funny, gorgeous (and not just the scenery, although that is stunning), conflicted and deeply nakedly personal.

Essentially, Ma Belle, My Beauty explores a relationship which would colloquially be called a “throuple” – three people who are mutually in love – or at least they were. The center of the relationship would probably be Bertie (Idella Johnson), a jazz singer from New Orleans. She has married her bandleader Fred (Lucien Guignard) and agreed to move with him to his parents’ gorgeous villa in the south of France.

However, her new life has Bertie feeling a little lost, a little depressed. She has lost her passion for music. While Fred obviously loves Bertie, sometimes it seems that he is less worried about the marriage and more concerned about their working relationship. While she is in this down mood she doesn’t want to sing, and her refusal to sing is costing him gigs.

Therefore, as a surprise, he flies in their former lover Lane (Hannah Pepper). He feels having her around may cheer Bertie up, even though Lane suddenly disappeared without a word a couple of years earlier. It’s never exactly explained why Lane took off. Nor is it quite revealed why she agreed to come back now. Sometimes there is just a connection. At least that is what Fred hopes.

Sadly, things change and sometimes it is not wise to revisit the past. As much as Fred hopes that Lane seducing his wife may be just what everyone needed, the situation also dredges up hurt and anger and frustration.

Into this isolated tinderbox enters a beautiful younger Israeli woman named Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon), who just complicates the already tenuous situation.

Despite this description, honestly not much happens in Ma Belle, My Beauty. People talk, people fight, people flirt, people make love, people feel resentment, and people try to move on. It is vaguely reminiscent of the darker third chapter of the Before Sunset trilogy – Before Midnight – in which the audience watches people trying to talk their way through the intricacies of intimacy – all in a gorgeous European setting. Or, sometimes, figure it out without talking.

Ma Belle, My Beauty is not an action-packed film – a vintage sports car drive or jogging is probably as active as it gets here – and yet it is often fascinating.

It also does not offer any easy answers, nor does it probably work out how any of the people involved may have hoped.

Just like life.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: September 4, 2021.

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