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Weekly Alibi Pink is for Girls

By Angie Drobnic

MARCH 2, 1998: 

Ma Vie en Rose

Ludovic is a little boy who wants to be a little girl. The Belgian film Ma Vie en Rose tells the story of what comes from his simple wish, mixing drama with fantasy and humor to ultimately deliver a devastating critique of middle-class mores.

The world of Ma Vie en Rose is the suburbs: The family is the center of the universe, and the moms and dads hustle their brood around the daily business of middle-class life. Ludovic's family has just moved to the neighborhood, and his parents are trying hard to make the family fit in. They first think their son's cross-dressing is just a funny tic that he needs to outgrow. But Ludovic (played by seven-year-old Georges Du Fresne) refuses to conform, and when he's caught playing the bride in a make-believe wedding with the son of his father's boss, the repercussions from both his parents and neighbors are swift. The adults in Ludovic's world mouth values of tolerance, but the neighbors persecute Ludovic's entire family. The only consistently sympathetic person in his life is his grandmother Elisabeth, a free spirited feminist played by Helene Vincent.

Visually, Ma Vie en Rose captures the suburbs with a technicolor intensity: The lawns are a lush green, the sky a brilliant blue, and the inhabitants dress in vivid primary colors. But the glow is surreal, and the perfect facade hides a dark interior. The film easily brings to mind Tim Burton's 1990 film, Edward Scissorhands, as both films capture the horror and kitschy beauty of two-faced suburbia. Also like Scissorhands, much of the charm of Ma Vie en Rose comes from the individuality of its hero. The movie beautifully creates a partially animated internal fantasy world for Ludovic dominated by his idol, a Barbie-like doll named Pam. As Ludovic grapples with his belief that he will one day become a girl even though his parents tell him it's impossible, he fantasizes that when God sent down his extra X chromosome, it got lost in the trash.

Ma Vie en Rose tackles the increasingly political issues of sexual and gender identity, and while fanciful, the film stays grounded in reality. Ludovic's gender confusion brings on an avalanche of homophobia, even though Ludovic himself doesn't seem to understand what being gay is. The issues of sexual identity and orientation, especially for children, frighten the adults in Ma Vie en Rose so much that their reactions are neither subtle nor admirable. But the film does posit an alternative, one that European gay cinema seems to be embracing (last year's Brit flick Beautiful Thing comes to mind)--that the working class is significantly more tolerant of sexual differences than the status-paranoid middle class.

The film also artfully shows that childhood, while dark and frightening, still has its moments of tender beauty. In one of the film's early scenes, Ludovic is dancing with his mother, and as she holds him, the camera stops to slowly take in the scene. It's the combination of darkness and light--both in style and substance--that makes Ma Vie en Rose such an artistically compelling film.

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