A Slightly Pregnant Man Review

A Slightly Pregnant Man is as fantastical a Jacques Demy film as Donkey Skin was or one of those in which everyone sings. As the title suggests Marcello Mastroianni finds himself expecting child, yet whilst the concept is there, this is also one of the director’s most straightforward ventures. Much like those eighties high concept attractions – mermaids in Splash, age increase in Big, genetic engineering before its time in Twins - the scientific part is buried in a few lines of dialogue (something to do with hormones, diet and “transference” apparently), rather it’s all just an excuse for some lightweight fun.

And A Slightly Pregnant Man most certainly is lightweight. It couldn’t be classed as a farce – it’s far too simple even for that. Instead it runs on the energy of its performances, primarily the effervescent turn Mastroianni. Taking it easy, he lets his eyes do the talking, which they undoubtedly do. Likewise Catherine Deneuve, as his wife, keeps things relatively low key. She’s always played the ingénue for Demy (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Donkey Skin), but here even more so; in fact, it’s hard to recognise her as the actress who has turned in so many heavyweight performances throughout her long career. Not that this is meant as a criticism. Rather it goes to show just how unassuming the whole thing is. Indeed, the pair still effortlessly convey the couple’s domesticity and the fact that they are clearly in love (an element, of course, which was mirrored off-screen).

As to whether the film conveys much more is another matter however. The plotting could of course be ripe for satire, yet the various issues – morning sickness, maternity clothing, etc. as well as larger concerns such as over-population – are merely nodded to as opposed to being mined for their comic potential. Indeed, oftentimes A Slightly Pregnant Man seems barely there which also makes you question just how funny the whole thing is. Certainly, Mastroianni makes for an amusing lead and raises the occasional smile, but then we also move along at such a lackadaisical pace it’s hard to force much out of its audience. It couldn’t be classed as a romp, for example, or be considered even remotely screwball; the first half simply builds up to the revelation which we all know is coming whilst the second pads out the consequences with a couple of unnecessary subplots.

Yet A Slightly Pregnant Man is also a film which is near impossible to dislike. It may not possess Demy’s lightness of touch in all its glory, but it ambles along merrily enough. Indeed, the only thing to truly disconcert is its more dated qualities: Mirielle Matthieu’s Bond theme-esque big number; the gaudy colour schemes; Deneuve’s succession of unflattering costumes. Otherwise it’s a film to relax into. Don’t expect too much, more importantly go with it despite its flimsiness and it results in a lightweight piece of fun – exactly what it has set to do.

The Disc

The third of Optimum’s recent trio of Jacques Demy titles, A Slightly Pregnant Man is undoubtedly given the most disappointing disc of the three. There are no extras to be found whilst the presentation is also a few notches below those of the other releases. As before we get an anamorphic transfer (at a ratio of 1.66:1) with burnt-in English subs, but here the print isn’t in as good a condition. At times the grain is heavily apparent, though otherwise damage is negligible. Disappointingly, however, we also have to contend with a soft image and some noticeable edge enhancement. All told it remains watchable, though in comparison to Donkey Skin and especially The Umbrellas of Cherbourg the difference is there to be seen. As for the soundtrack, here we find the original French mono recording and it’s in pleasing condition. It demonstrates a fine clarity and more importantly there are no technical problems to be discerned. It’s merely a disappointment that the image doesn’t live up to its qualities.

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Last updated: 01/05/2018 19:15:14

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