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Jeanne and the Perfect Guy.

* Written and directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau * Composed by Philippe Miller * Starring Virginie Ledoyen, Valerie Bonneton, Mathieu Demy, and Jacques Bonnaffe * Strand Releasing

The reception desk where Jeanne answers phones for Jet Tour sits in plain view of a revolving door that spits visitors in and out of her Paris office building. It's a metaphor, none too subtle, for the constant parade of men who fail into this alluring young woman's bed and just as quickly make their exit.

The heroine at the nexus of the French Jeanne and the Perfect Guy is neither a harridan nor a loser. As played by the daisy-flesh Virginie Ledoyen, Jeanne is a Madonna-age gal who digs sex and won't go for second best, baby. After marking time with a messenger boy and her hopelessly bourgeois boss, she finds the best guy on a Metro train. Zing go the strings of her heart, zip go the teeth on her skirt. And voile, the lover man is HIV-positive!

When Madonna-esque women have something to say, what do they do? They sing, of course. Damn it if Jeanne and the Perfect Guy isn't a musical, an Umbrellas of Cherbourg for the mid-plague years. The Canadian film musical Zero Patience and the Broadway hit Rent may have scoped out this territory, and the recent seriocomedy Playing by Heart added more fodder for hetero couples learning the HIV blues, but Jeanne and the Perfect Guy is a welcome wrinkle on the AIDS soaper. Like its predecessors, Jeanne improbably but successfully devises a utopia where fairy-tale romance and hard reality coexist as comfortably as gay and straight.

There is real heat between Jeanne and her subway pickup, a former drug abuser named Olivier (a quirkily handsome Mathieu Demy). Entwined naked in bed, the pair chirp of their passion (Ledoyen's singing is dubbed, as was Catherine Deneuve's in Cherbourg). But the best moments in the breezy, derivative score by directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (was that "Chim Chim Chiree"?) are saved for a pert bookseller with serious Yma Sumac tendencies and Jeanne's gay ACT UP chum (Jacques Bonnaffe) who offers up a Charles Aznavour-like scorcher on the isolation and sorrow of an AIDS widower.

Where Cherbourg cushioned its lovers in a stylized blowout of overripe color, Jeanne is more earthbound and curiously more nationalistic, favoring the reds, whites, and blues of the French flag. Just about everyone gets a song in this Mad Hatter of a musical, from the night cleaning staff at Jeanne's office to her army-enlisted brother, who extols the joys of military discipline on acoustic guitar. Near the end, one of Jeanne's spurned admirers breaks into a florid aria redolent of "Love, Look Away." Typifying the film's schizoid marriage of kitsch and sobriety, it leaves us moved, tickled, and utterly flummoxed.

Stuart is theater critic and senior film writer for Newsday.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Stuart, Jan
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:May 11, 1999
Words:477
Previous Article:Life.
Next Article:J. Edgar Hoover.
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