Madame Claude is a dramatic biopic film based on the real-life of French brothel keeper, Fernande Grudet. In a man’s world, Claude tried to create a system where she held the power. She believed that women in the bed knew all the tricks to tame the men. Once bitten in love, she distilled hatred in her soul and ran the business of prostitution without emotion. She wanted power, money, and respect, and she snatched it all. It is the story of her rise and the story of her fall.
‘Madame Claude’ Summary
Set in the late 1960s Paris, the film focuses on two of its main protagonists, Madame Claude (Karole Rocher) and Sidonie (Garance Marillier), also known as Virginia.
Madame Claude’s business is already flourishing when a new girl named Sidonie comes to meet her in order to join the business. Sidonie had a traumatic childhood involving a sexually assaulting father. Through Sidonie, the film explores Madame Claude’s personal and professional life. She ran away from home as a teenager after getting pregnant and dumped in love. She came to Paris and became a prostitute but quickly started her own brothel with the help of her gangster henchman, Jo Attia.
Claude’s daughter and her mother don’t approve of her professional life but Claude is rich and powerful and too fierce to be controlled. In her network, Claude only supplies girls to high-class civil servants and power of influence. In short, to men who pay well and don’t hit girls. But her business is illegal and she has to pay the pigs (police) and underworld to survive. She hates these men who control politics and power but is helpless.
Police officials and the Secret service agency use Madame Claude’s girls to extract information from suspected underworld lords and corrupt city officials. An unwanted move creates a series of enemies for Madame Claude and her business, which ultimately leads to her downfall. Even the police officials refuse to publicly lend their aid due to the change of men in the party. But the death of the protective shield, Jo becomes a turning point in her life. A fatal blow that destroys her kingdom.
‘Madame Claude’ Ending
Sidonie’s father who holds an upper hand in the government in the ministry of foreign affairs hates Madame Claude for transforming his daughter into a prostitute. He tries to get back his daughter but in her eternal hatred, Sidonie insults her father in a restaurant. A humiliated father seeks revenge. He breaks all the chains in the government that was protecting Madame Claude’s illegal business. She is compelled to run away and hide underground.
But that’s not the end. The underworld was looking for Claude like hungry wolves. All the enemies she made in her entire career were after her life. And this time, it was more lethal because Jo wasn’t around to protect her.
After a change in presidency, Claude was charged with tax evasion. She was cornered and a fine of 11 million was imposed. Claude ran off to the USA to protect herself from other complications. Though she faced immigration issues and was deported to France. She was put on trial and was charged with exploitation of women for prostitution. She gets convicted with 3 years in prison and a fine of one million francs at a point where she is already bankrupt.
Madame Claude never had an easy relationship with her daughter, and in the ending sequences when her daughter informs Claude about her pregnancy, Claude pushes her daughter away. Madame Claude always wanted to be in control but in the end, when she felt helpless, the feeling made her a lonely person sinking into a dark abyss.
Madame Claude spends the rest of her life in misery, waiting for death she knows will come “tomorrow.” Sidonie, however, informs her that she pressed charges against her father and he was sentenced too, a short one but her burning desire to see the man behind bars is finally fulfilled. With Madame Claude’s journey, at least one person attained her redemption.
Madame Claude had an interesting life. A woman trying to rule a world controlled by men. However, the narrative of the film fails to create an impact. There are also some references in the film linking Claude’s connection with famous French actor Alain Delon, and American actor Marlon Brando. These minute scenes were used to create speculation and justify Claude’s superiority. The narrative, altogether, was too busy focusing on Claude’s superiority that it totally ignored the fact, that drama needs a flawed hero to create an impact. It is why the film becomes too dull and monotonous. Dramatic elements don’t impact the character much, her tragedy and weaknesses aren’t reaped either. Though the writers tried to do justice with the original material, they failed to understand that they are creating fiction, and to amplify the impact, some liberties are necessary. Narratively, the film is a dry drama that doesn’t hold your attention. The performances are good but not basic. The most prominent flaw, the characters are wild, but the passion lies in their words and not in their actions. It makes them spineless and hence they fail to generate the revolution on screen. Additionally, Madame Claude created a life for herself, what good a life that would be?
If you are looking for insight into Madame Claude’s life, the film could give you a brief idea. If you are looking for an entertaining and interesting biopic, then it could be missed.
Madame Claude is a 2021 Biopic based on the life of Fernande Grudet written and directed by Sylvie Verheyde. The film is streaming on Netflix.
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