Many have tried to reproduce their life stories in book form. Fewer have dared to use the film’s more direct and thoughtful medium. Even fewer have been successful in doing so. With “La Vie sexuelle des Belges” we have an original and sensational film about what it is like to grow up in an in every way stingy childhood home, go through a turbulent youth era and then have to try to grow up and create something reminiscent of a tolerable life. on their own. The latter turns out to be extremely difficult for the blunt and emotionally incompetent Jan Bucquoy (the film’s main character, narrator and director, played by Jean-Henri Compere). On the other hand, it is here that the very same Bucquoy succeeds in telling a simultaneously amusing and deeply felt autobiographical development story without the connection to the outside world, to the rapid development of society, being lost.
It is no coincidence that the film starts by showing the young Jan in close connection with a woman’s breast – namely the mother’s! She breastfeeds him until he is two years old, not because it should be healthy, cozy or emotionally conducive in any way, but because it is above all cheap. It is said that every home has a ‘slogan’ that family life is about and in Jan Bucquoy’s case the slogan was probably: “it’s the cheapest too”. Money is thus the all-dominating theme of the all-dominating mother (the father is a distant and ridiculous figure) and her material stinginess is surpassed only by her lack of care. At one point, she exclaims in bitter and ridiculous despair “life is so expensive” and the attitude is reflected in her puritanical zombie life in the countryside.
Jan is obviously affected by the miserable family life, but he has writing talent and tries, despite sabotage from home and a certain amount of lead in the butt, to break out and build a life on his feet as a writer and family man in the middle of the turbulent youth rebellion years in Brussels. His own quacked baggage, the exaggerated ideologisation of life at the time and of course the many pitfalls of alcoholism put the personal happiness and the professional success on many a hard test, and the audience gets a glimpse into a completely hard fate. Sex life is what causes him the most problems (and the audience the most laughs), but really this is just the symptom of the deeper malaise that our unfortunate hero struggles with. The lack of backbone is combined with a fuck-in-violence so it can only go wrong.
With this presentation, the film could easily end in sentimentality, self-pity or exaggerated childhood psychologization as well as once again easily-bought ridicule of the 68s – and the film truly also deals with quite a few potential clichés: the failed author, the ideological determinism of 70s Marxism, the hard childhood and the blunt little man who is only able to feel with the abdomen. Fortunately, there is a black humor and successful caricature as a bulwark against this pitfall. In addition, the film is characterized by being deeply autobiographical (the real Jan Bucquoy himself appears in a supporting role as a Dadaist poet!) And thus it becomes Bucquoys’ very own youth rebellion / exaggerated mother bonding / failed writer career that is portrayed rather than a re-run of all the others. That the youth uprising is still being parodied a tooth too much is probably the only serious accusation that can be made against this humorous and unsentimental, yes almost documentary interpretation of everyday life and its shabby ugliness for the modern cotton man.