Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin
Canadian filmmaker Renée Beaulieu lugubriously titled Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin never settles on a consistent or sustainable tone, but boasts a number of keenly observed insights about intimacy and sexual double standards.
Marie-Claire (Brigitte Poupart) is a dermatology professor and researcher who’s trying to determine if the hidden differences between lust and love lie hidden in the cellular makeup of human skin. Although she appears happily married with a teenage daughter, Marie-Claire commits opens acts of sexual infidelity to carry out her experiments. Approaching sex from a pragmatic and often cold point of view, Marie-Claire’s growing apathy towards the human condition will end up causing great distress at work and at home.
Not wasting any time when it comes down to depicting sex acts (three of which occur in the first fifteen minutes), Beaulieu starts off by making a film that’s initially confrontational before settling in to more of a character piece. Initially, the question as to whether or not Marie-Claire is using sex as research, release, or as the filling of an emotional void is interesting to wrestle with, and it’s played off nicely by the director and Poupart. That interest doesn’t last, and once Marie-Claire outs herself as a single minded jerk who’ll gleefully throw others under the bus to protect her own work, the pivot in storytelling never fully takes hold, especially in a love triangle subplot involving one of the professor’s students and a good looking young black man who has an interest in both of them.
Beaulieu wants to do and say too many things at once. Some of it comes across nicely. Some of it falls flat.