The Movie Waffler DVD Review - MONIQUE (1970) | The Movie Waffler

DVD Review - MONIQUE (1970)

A husband and wife each fall for their new au pair.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: John Bown

Starring: David Sumner, Joan Alcorn, Sibylla Kay

With its middle class British setting, Monique resembles an episode of something like George and Mildred guest directed by Teorema era Pasolini. Those with an interest in novelty cinema of the '70s should seek this one out.

Monique is released on DVD by Screenbound Pictures August 1st.

If you relied on the movies for an education on sex you'd likely grow up a pretty disturbed individual. Ever since the Hays Code banned nudity from Hollywood productions in the early 1930s, cinema has more often than not portrayed sexual activity in a negative light. At best it's treated in a juvenile "phwoar matron!" manner, at worst it's shown to carry fatal consequences. If a character has sex in a movie, it's usually an indication that something awful is going to happen to them, be it murdered at the hands of a masked killer or stalked by the other participant in a one night stand.

The average sex-themed movie treats its subject the way Michael Haneke's Funny Games treats violence - luring us in with the promise of illicit thrills only to slap us on the wrist for showing such an interest. And things aren't improving any. Last year's Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck displayed a horribly regressive attitude to female sexuality, the film tut-tutting at its protagonist's ownership of her body and pairing her up in a monogamous relationship with a safe dullard at the conclusion. And even the French are just as conservative; look at this year's Bang Gang, in which a group of teens embrace and enjoy their sexuality only to end up stricken with venereal disease at the end. Throughout cinema, the enjoyment of sex usually carries consequences, while in reality billions of people screw around without worry of some ghastly repercussion.

The 1960s saw a sexual revolution in Europe which bled into cinema in the 1970s when censorship became considerably more relaxed. Yet few sexploitation movies of the era approach their subject in a mature, non-judgmental fashion. Writer-director John Bown's 1970 Monique stands out from the crowd in this way. There's nothing mucky and immature about the treatment of its subject, and the protagonists aren't condemned for their indulgences.

The film centres on a married middle class London couple, Bill (David Sumner) and Jean (Joan Alcorn). Their marriage has grown a little staid and the spark has well and truly left the bedroom. Jean has grown tired of being stuck with the kids all day and wishes to return to the workplace. To facilitate this she hires a French au pair, the eponymous Monique (Sibylla Kay), who arrives at a train station clad in black leather and sunglasses like the killer from an Italian thriller.

It's not long before Bill finds himself struggling to keep his eyes off Monique's revealing outfits, and even Jean seems to be feeling a lot randier in her presence. This eventually leads to Bill sleeping with his live-in employee, but unbeknownst to him, Jean is also having it away with her French fancy. What's good for the goose and all that.

Bown's film is a real curiosity piece. It's lumped in now with the many dirty raincoat skin-flicks of its era, but there's relatively little flesh on display here. Bown is as interested in what's going on in his characters' minds as what they're feeling in their loins.

It's also a much more technically impressive offering than you might expect from this genre; there are no jolting Jess Franco zooms, and Bown delivers some nicely framed images. With its middle class British setting, Monique resembles an episode of something like George and Mildred guest directed by Teorema era Pasolini. Those with an interest in novelty cinema of the '70s should seek this one out.