Madame Claude

Madame Claude
Running time:112 minutes
Director:Sylvie Verheyde
Release date:02 april 2021

Mulder's Review

"Her destiny was set.
She invented another path for herself.
She made do with what she had: her body.
She went up to Paris and did the sidewalk.
She could have stayed there, at best find a nice client, if she was smart, or sink.
She seized an opportunity and started her own business.
There she had a brilliant idea: to make the rich pay by making them believe that she came from the
same world. Reinventing herself, lying.... " - Sylvie Verheyde

Who was really Fernande Grudet, better known as Madame Claude, a French brothel owner, a free woman who built a veritable empire by consorting with law enforcement agents and high officials. In the 1960s, after leaving her only daughter with her parents, she moves to Paris, learns the trade and, most importantly, finds herself at the head of a French network of call girls who worked for dignitaries, government officials and world-famous movie stars, among others.

Director Sylvie Verheyde (A Brother (1997), Princesses (2000), Stella (2008), Confession of a Child of the Century (2012), Sex Doll (2015)) manages to find the right approach and delivers a real historical fresco in which appearances are often deceiving, men seem manipulable or unable to control their baser instincts. In this sordid ball between sex and violence, two women will learn from each other.

Far from wanting to tell us the whole life of Fernande Grudet (Madame Claude), the film focuses on a period of her life. We discover the influence of Fernande Grudet in the Paris of the 1960s, which extends beyond the world of the simple sex industry until a wealthy young woman threatens to change everything and the government decides to put its nose in her business and simply destroy her indecent empire. The past of Fernande Grudet (Madame Claude) is narrated here through her numerous off-screen dialogues telling us how she invented a past for herself, how lying became one of her working tools.

Madame Claude also succeeds in capturing the atmosphere of the 60's by showing images of the time on television and the way she dresses. The political aspect of the film is not forgotten either and also the evolution of the relationship of the forces of law and order who used Madame Claude's network to reach their end and then decided to cut it short and especially to do everything to destroy her empire. The scenario manages to stay close to reality and above all delivers two very beautiful portraits of strong women ready to do anything to succeed.

Where such a subject could have made Madame Claude a gravelly film pretext for a multitude of naked scenes, Sylvie Verheyde's very masterful screenplay focuses on the psychology of the characters and on the description of an era in which the mafia seemed to have a hold on Paris. The success of this film is due in particular to its successful casting in which we find in the two main female roles the actresses Karole Rocher (Princesses (2000), Le bal des actrices (2007), Polisse (2011), Blake Snake, the legend of the black snake (2017) ...) and especially Garance Marillier (Eat (2012), Grave (2016), Pompei (2019)) in one of its best roles. The supporting cast is not left out with notably Roschdy Zem, Pierre Deladonchamps, Annabelle Belmondo, Hafsia Herzi, Josephine de la Baume and Mylène Jampanoï.

Madame Claude
Written and Directed by Sylvie Verheyde
Produced by Florence Gastaud
Starring Karole Rocher, Roschdy Zem, Garance Marillier, Pierre Deladonchamps, Annabelle Belmondo, Hafsia Herzi, Joséphine de La Baume, Mylène Jampanoï
Cinematography : Léo Hinstin
Edited by Christel Dewynter
Production companies : Les Compagnons du Cinema, TNG Productions
Distributed by Netflix
Release date : April 4, 2021 (World)
Running time : 112 minutes

Seen on March 29, 2021 (screener Netflix)

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