Director: Nicholas Bedos
Starring: Pierre Niney, Isabelle Adjani, François Cluzet, Marine Vacth, Emmanuelle Devos, Laura Morante, Charles Berling, James Wilby
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Runtime: 135 mins. Reviewed in May 2023
Reviewer: Jan Epstein
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong sex scenes and nudity

Deceptions, seductions, relationships on the French Riviera, an ageing actress, a frustrated real estate agent and his wife, and two younger opportunists manipulating their victims.

Bedos’ Masquerade is as intriguing and captivating as its title suggests. Set among affluent holidaymakers in Nice on the French Riviera, the film centres on Adrien (Niney), a promising young dancer who becomes a gigolo after a motorbike accident prevents him from fulfilling his dream.

Adrien’s current source of income is Martha (Adjani), an ageing, ill-tempered film star. But when Adrien falls madly in love with the beautiful Margot (Vacth), whose income is also uncertain and dependent on satisfying the needs of ageing lovers, the plot spirals both darkly and playfully into a labyrinthine exploration of murder, moral vacuity and greed.

A complex thriller, Masquerade conjures an image of masked balls where people hide their real faces and deceive others into believing they are someone they are not. In real life however, masquerades can be trickier and more dangerous, and it is this what Bedos explores with panache and great skill.

Masquerade is prefaced by Somerset Maugham’s quote that the ‘French Riviera is a shady place for sunny people’, and through the film’s cinematography and multi-layered characters, Bedos, as scriptwriter and director, signals that this view of the Cote D’Azur is still highly relevant today.

The least attractive traits in human beings are woven seamlessly into the words and actions of ostensibly ‘beautiful people’, and Bedos has assembled an impressive cast to portray them.

Vacth, a newcomer to the Australian screen, and Niney are entirely convincing, while Adjani shows again that great actors can transcend melodrama and make even two-dimensional caricatures seem real. The same can be said of Cluzet, in many ways a Dustin Hoffman ‘lookalike’ in this film, who plays Simon, the enraged lover who commits murder and sets the chaotic ball rolling as well as Devos as his wife.

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