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  Monique Au Paired Off
Year: 1970
Director: John Bown
Stars: David Sumner, Joan Alcorn, Sibylla Kay, Nicola Bown, Jacob Fitz-Jones, Davilia O'Connor, Carol Hawkins, Howard Rawlinson
Genre: Drama, SexBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bill (David Sumner) and Jean (Joan Alcorn) have been married for about ten years, but the spark has gone out of their relationship. Jean in particular is feeling the boredom and frustration of being a housewife with two young children to look after, and wishes she had never given up work, which she had done on her husband's instruction. He's doing his best to cheer her mood, but no matter where they are that sense of listlessness drags them both down, with their sex life practically non-existent. Then Jean has an idea about getting an au pair to help with the kids, thus freeing up her days and nights...

We all know those jokes about the au pair, and while this was certainly not going to dispel those, it wasn't really a comedy. Monique was the brainchild of actor John Bown, here making a rare excursion behind the camera to take advantage of the loosening of Britain's censorship laws which now allowed more nudity and sex to be depicted, within reason. Reason being not overdoing it in the view of the censors, though they nevertheless had their problems with what they were presented with as entertainment for adults, and indeed this effort was victim to a spot of snipping away at the more explicit sequences.

Bown evidently wanted to keep this a family affair so cast his wife Sibylla Kay and their daughter in the film as well, Kay taking the title role as the world's oldest au pair. In fact, she looked older than Bill and Jean, which might have made a more apt description for Monique as a governess, and there were certain unflattering shots in this which might have had you wondering if she wasn't so much pushing fifty as taking on this job to top up her pension. Anyway, to summarise, she arrives in the couple's lives and brightens them up with a Continental sexual sophistication and experimentation, first attracting the attentions of Bill.

Such is Monique's carnal allure that she can influence Jean as well, so as Christmas nears the sexual tension is palpable. First, we get to see what a free spirit she is when she goes out with a local lad, obviously a fan of the older woman, and this while she still has a boyfriend back in France! Sacre bleu! They spend the evening at a nightclub which apparently bores the miniskirted and go-go booted lady out of her mind, so she guides him to a football ground where they have a kickabout until the sound of da police is heard, whereupon they scarper, the lad drives her home and - wah-hey! - she tells him goodnight and goes inside. Oh. But wait, Bill is still up and manages to seduce her before she goes to bed.

This was the sort of outsider entering a relationship and sexually shaking it up that was very much in vogue at the time, but with Bown's efforts there was a notably suburban flavour to the proceedings, which might have been why it attracted a fair sized audience on its release, perhaps tapping into a popular fantasy among couples of the day. It's almost completely forgotten now, as society moved past such work or at least adapted it into other forms of entertainment, but Monique is an example of the way the sexual revolution in Britain didn't just take its cinematic form in the comedy market. That's not to say you won't chuckle in a few places: for example, when the au pair prompts a night of marital ecstasy by offscreen seducing of Jean and getting her all revved up, it seems to have had such an effect that Christmas is immediately cancelled, the tree they spent so much time putting up set ablaze in the back garden. Most probably modern audiences will find this dull even with its threesome finale, but it had an unintended quaintness. Near-constant jazz trio soundtrack by Jacques Loussier.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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