Homme fatal

The bunny boiler is dead. New films Un Homme Idéal và The Perfect Guy swap the gender roles khổng lồ expose the anxieties and insecurities of modern men


The femme fatale is one of the family, cinematically speaking. Throw a stiletto heel và you will hit someone who could explain how to spot a Gildomain authority or a Laura at 10 paces. Less widely discussed is her male counterpart – the homme fatale.

It could be that immoral or beastly behaviour in men is considered par for the course and merits no special category. When a woman goes rotten, whether it’s Barbara Stanwychồng as the wife plotting her husband’s death in Double Indemnity or Glenn Cchiến bại as the wronged lover in Fatal Attraction, it is seen as a tantalising aberration: a perversion of the maternal ikhuyến mãi, an attaông xã of the Lady Macbeths. When it’s a man, the element of surprise is diminished. Boys will be boys.

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But in two new films with almost identical ironic titles – Un Homme Idéal & The Perfect Guy – the homme fatale reflects anxieties about gender roles every bit as clearly as the female equivalent. In Un Homme Idéal, a budding writer, Mathieu Vasseur (Pierre Niney), passes off the diaries of a dead soldier as his own debut novel, then becomes increasingly psychotic when the enchanted life he has wrongfully attained is jeopardised.

The picture adopts a Ripley’s-eye view of the situation, lớn namekiểm tra Patricia Highsmith’s identity-swapping killer, the patron saint of the homme fatale. As with the Ripley adaptations, Un Homme Idéal creates a skew-whiff moral perspective, making the audience complicit in the criminal’s actions – we squirm along with Mathieu & find ourselves hoping he evades justice even when he resorts khổng lồ murder to lớn cover his tracks.

In Mathieu’s case, it isn’t only his career as a novecác mục that is endangered when a blackmailer threatens to lớn expose him as a fraud. It is his entire identity: provider, lover, man. He’s not too different from the killer in The Stepfather, a masterful 1986 thriller about a man who seeks out the patriarchal role in single-parent families only to slaughter them và move onto lớn the next household when he fails to lớn achieve domestic perfection. The demands of traditional gender roles have sầu a lot to lớn answer for.

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The Perfect Guy, on the other hvà, examines what it might feel lượt thích to be on the receiving kết thúc of the attentions of a Ripley figure. It proves that there is a thin line between courtship & stalking. The skill-set required is the same & even the behaviour is identical (flowers dispatched to lớn the object of attention, round-the-clochồng messages & phone calls). All that changes is intent.

The movie follows Leah (Sanaa Lathan), who is dazzled by the twinkly eyed Carter (Michael Ealy). He impresses her friends & family, and makes all the right noises about commitment. But this dreamboat springs a leak when he sees another man talking to lớn her in public. In fact, the stranger, a oto enthusiast, was only asking Leah if he could take a picture of Carter’s vehicle.

“That speaks lớn ideas of male possessiveness,” says the film’s screenwriter, Tyger Williams. “Listen lớn the way men discuss their cars – they refer to lớn them as ‘she’ and they talk about ‘lines’ và ‘curves’ và ‘the rear.’ This guy is fawning over Carter’s car but he may just as well be pawing Leah. Carter considers both of them his possessions.”

Perceived threats to lớn sexual dominance are aước ao the quickest way lớn inflame the temper of the homme fatale. Think of Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), in which Julia Roberts fakes her own death to escape a controlling, jealous husband (Patrick Bergin). Or the 1996 thriller Fear, made in the days before Mark Wahlberg went on his current charm offensive sầu. Before the film has finished, he will have decapitated Reese Witherspoon’s pet Alsatian & popped its head through the cat-flap. (Pets in these situations rarely emerge unscathed. No wonder we gasp when it is revealed in The Perfect Guy that Leah has a pet cat. Poor kitty.)

For Williams, The Perfect Guy represented an opportunity lớn challenge expectations about gender. “Men in relationships are traditionally expected lớn be more reserved, less emotional. They’re supposed lớn be in control. This genre is primarily founded on the crazy stalker woman – Fatal Attraction, Play Misty for Me. It becomes more interesting when you see the man becoming unhinged, out of control, impulsive sầu, acting on their emotions.”

Like the parentless Ripley, Carter’s behaviour has a psychological grounding, a yearning for a family khổng lồ compensate for the biological mother who put him up for adoption. “Once you play it crazy, people are out,” says director David M Rosenthal. “Michael and I talked about how we wanted audiences khổng lồ sympathise with Carter. The more invested they are in hlặng, the more powerful it is when he finally snaps. The same is true in The Talented Mr Ripley. That’s a film I looked at a lot. He’s charming và we almost want hlặng lớn succeed at his game. On some level, we’re titillated by it.”

Give or take a few internet-era touches that remind us how social media has made trainee stalkers of us all, the homme fatale element in The Perfect Guy is fairly traditional. Carter seduces Leah with the offer of what she feels is missing from her life: chivalry, attention, children. (It’s the opposite of what the femme fatale promises: she is aggressively sexual with a defiantly anti-family stance.)

The recent The Boy Next Door offered an alternative sầu in which the homme fatale (Ryan Guzman) – significantly younger than the object of his affections (Jennifer Lopez) – represents excitement và naughtiness. And as the area of subjects broached in cinema becomes broader, so too do the manifestations of the homme fatale: Stranger By the Lake relocates the idea khổng lồ a secluded cruising spot for gay men, where the desire for intimacy may come at a terrible price.

For all that Leah is terrorised in The Perfect Guy, the film views Carter, rather than her, as the ultimate victim. “Think how much pain và grief he must be going through internally lớn desperately và continuously come up with ways to get her attention,” Williams points out. When the writer came onboard the project, there had already been several drafts that made Carter the main character.

He describes them as “Taxi Driver-esque”, invoking an icon of homme fatale cinema: Robert De Niro. Not for nothing was a 2007 book of film miscellany entitled Ten Bad Dates With De Niro. The prospect of having hyên ổn as one’s suitor might entail rape (Once Upon a Time in America), a porn-cinema date followed by harassment (Taxi Driver) or a lifetime of bullying (This Boy’s Life). “Will you go away?” Liza Minnelli asks De Niro in Thủ đô New York, New York. To which he replies: “I want to stay here và annoy you.” Spoken lượt thích a true homme.

Un Homme Idéal và The Perfect Guy are released on Friday 20 November.

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