Tuesday’s movie night at the San Francisco Alliance Française features a film with an unusual theme – a young boy who believes that he’s actually a girl, and has decided that when he grows up, that’s what he’ll be. Ma Vie en Rose is Belgian screenwriter and director Alain Berliner’s first feature film. It won a 1998 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film (Berliner is Belgian), and has received 12 other awards and 7 nominations.
The lead role of 7 year-old Ludovic is played by Georges Du Fresne, his mother (Hanna) by Michèle Laroque and his father (Pierre) by Jean-Philippe Écoffey. The screenplay was co-written by Berliner and writer/director Chris Vander Stappen, based on an original story by Vander Stappen.
In his review of Ma Vie en Rose, Roger Ebert wrote that “this is not a story about homosexuality or transvestism, but about a little boy who thinks he’s a little girl …. there is no sexual awareness in his dressing-up, but simply a determination to set things right”. And because it’s a comedy, “the going never gets too heavy”.
Ludovic and his parents have recently moved into a new home, right next door to Pierre’s boss who has a son, Jerome, whom Ludovic states he will one day marry. This situation causes no end of problems for his parents, not least because Jerome’s father is dogmatic and narrow-minded, and others in the neighborhood are somewhat nonplussed as well. Ultimately, Ludovic is expelled from school, and the family has to move to another area. Hanna – who originally tolerated her son’s behavior – grows hostile towards him, and Pierre – though a rather macho character – eventually comes round to accepting the situation. Ludovic himself – firmly believing that his missing X chromosome somehow got misplaced – is undeterred by the drama that he’s causing, and can’t work out why the adults his life are getting so worked up about everything.
Unsurprisingly, Ma Vie en Rose has caused some consternation among ratings boards across the world, many of them unsure about where to draw the line in terms of its suitability for a young audience. In an interview with Variety magazine, Berliner says it’s suitable for general audiences: “I think it’s for everybody. For adults, for families and for kids, provided they’re not too young. Children who are 10 to 12 tend to like it a lot. They showed it to 10-year-olds at my son’s school and it went over really well.”
Film Journal International wrote: “For all its highly piquant subject matter, My Life in Pink (Ma Vie en Rose) is, above all, the story of a family”, crediting Berliner and Vander Stappen with having created “one of the most authentic, touching households ever put on film”.
Ma Vie en Rose had its world premiere during the Directors Fortnight at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, and was Belgium’s official entry for the 1998 Oscars in the category Best Foreign Film.
It will be screened in French, with English subtitles, at the San Francisco Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on Tuesday April 26 at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a donation of $5 is suggested.