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‘Ma Vie En Rose’ Opens in NYC, L.A.

December 25, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Ludovic Fabre (Georges du Fresne) is a wide-eyed 7-year-old with beautiful brown hair and an adoring family made up of considerate parents and three supportive older siblings.

The young boy has only one problem: He wants to be a girl.

This is the starting point of Belgian director Alain Berliner’s truly lovely film, which opens in the United States just in time to qualify as one of the year’s best. First seen in the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in May, ``Ma Vie En Rose″ is gentle and touching and maybe even wise.

Without ever resorting to preachiness or polemics, it’s a telling look about gender confusion that could not be more clear-eyed. In its own subtle way, this is a genuine feel-good movie, though not if you expect such films to wallow in sentimentality. That, ``Ma Vie En Rose″ does not.

The title translates in English as ``My Life in Pink,″ but it is not to be confused with the celebrated Edith Piaf song, ``La Vie En Rose,″ and its campy, teary histrionics.

Though always moving, the film soberly addresses the problems and pressures of raising a child who plays with dolls and who would prefer not to carouse with young neighbor Jerome (a pokerfaced Julien Riviere) when he could marry him instead.

``Boys don’t marry other boys,″ says Ludovic’s hairdresser mother Hanna (a radiant Michele Laroque), but Ludo, as he is known, perseveres.

As he views it with all the earnestness of youth, his desires have less to do with being gay _ he barely knows what the term ``bent″ means _ than with a simple scientific error: His X (or girl) chromosome ``fell in the trash″ when his genes were being allotted. In other words, he’s really a girl whom God made a boy by mistake.

In outline, ``Ma Vie En Rose″ sounds as if it could be too whimsical, and some of Ludo’s more ornate fantasy sequences are a shade fey.

Mostly, however, the movie is remarkable for the compassion shown toward a complex subject that has implications from which director Berliner doesn’t shy away.

The fragility of neighborly relations has rarely been as well-shown as in a chilling scene late in the film when the community turns icily against the Fabres. (Hanna’s subsequent comeuppance is an unexpected comic delight.)

And Ludo’s classmates turn out to be far less tolerant than his own family, threatening one day after sports ``to pull it off″ _ no prizes for guessing what ``it″ is _ ``and make you a real girl.″

It’s the members of the Fabre clan themselves who stick by Ludo, even as his obsession costs father Pierre (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey) his job and eventually his house. Grandmother Elisabeth (Helene Vincent) urges Ludo’s parents to indulge his cross-dressing desires in order to ``banalize″ his fantasy by enacting it.

But Ludo’s determination goes too far _ or so his mother thinks _ in a climactic moment that cunningly pits Ludo against his distaff equivalent, the tomboyish Christine (Raphaelle Santini).

It’s typical of the sensibility of the film that it ends not with a ``cure″ or with anything so neat, preferring to conclude on the implication that the family will see the matter through.

A lot of lip service is paid on and off screen to talk of family values, but ``Ma Vie En Rose″ is one of the few films of late to make such closeness a given. It’s helped even more by a cast that generates real warmth, starting with newcomer du Fresne, who was 10 when the film was shot.

``Whatever happens, you’ll always be our child,″ Ludo is told at the end.

This family is of value, and so is ``Ma Vie En Rose.″ This movie is this year’s Belgian entry for the Academy Award for best foreign film. It deserves to go the distance.

The Alain Berliner film, which he co-wrote with Chris Vander Stappen, was produced by Carole Scotta. ``Ma Vie En Rose″ has been rated R. That restriction seems a shame, since everyone should see it. Running time: 88 minutes.


Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G _ General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG _ Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 _ Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R _ Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 _ No one under 17 admitted.

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