“Nettoyage a sec” is a good film by the French director Anne Fontaine which decisively and intensely tells the story of a couple and the fear of the “third element”, or even the fear of its absence.
JeanMarie and Nicole have been married for 15 years and together run a dry-cleaners which takes up all their time, including the time they need to avoid letting their relationship deteriorate. One evening they go with some friends to “The Ranch”, a small provincial night spot where, a bit high, they meet two dancers who happen to be providing the entertainment that night. Brother and sister they travel around France making a living with a series of precarious engagements. The brother, Luic, is dangerously attractive. From that day on the couple’s life is transformed; dry-cleaners by day, by night they become more and more involved in perdition. Luic even becomes part of the family and starts working at the dry-cleaners. From this point on the young man, his transgressions, his undoubted eroticism which unsettles Nicole, the male prostitutes, his disturbing homosexual tendencies towards JeanMarie become real life. Nicole succumbs to Luic but wants to keep him at a distance him in the name of a couple which no longer exists, JeanMarie is as embarrassed as he is turned on by Luic’s allusions and Luic himself starts to lose control of a situation that he seemed to have created on purpose.
Each one of them is now three different people: Nicole is passionate with Luic, formal with JeanMarie and polite shopkeeper with the public. JeanMarie plays the part of the cat with the clever mouse
Luic, the reasonable husband with Nicole and the worker with the public. Luic has no need to play three different roles because his personality and his experiences allow him to be exactly as he wants to be seen. The epilogue is raw/crude, very different from anything you could imagine at the beginning of a film that has two anonymous inhabitants of a town with a small station as protagonists. You could be forgiven for thinking that “Nettoyage a Sec” is the explanation and extension of a tiny thread of local news only with the consequences of a much bigger story.
The actors who stand out among the cast are Miou-Miou, well known in
France, and the handsome Stanislas Merhar in the part of Luic.
Fontaine brings attention to the fact that a story of this kind has very different connotations when it takes place among provincial people who speak simply, who are usually more narrow-minded, who are not used to speaking about and listening to situations like this one.
That is probably also true even if, I add, the provincial dimension for the same reasons adds intensity and makes the extremes stand out.
A good film that’s worth watching.