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It is a more-or-less accepted paradox that, while sex itself is funny, sex comedies are not. French Twist, for example, is the kind of film whose characters are always having big fights during which one or all of the participants are naked —or, funnier still, naked but wearing some incongruous item such as a scarf or chef’s apron. Co-written by director Josiane Balasko and Telshe Boorman, Twist is about a man and two women who play musical chairs with gender roles; just when you think they’ve settled, they get up and switch seats…again and again and again.

Loli (Victoria Abril) is blissfully unaware that her husband, Laurent (Alain Chabat), is a compulsive womanizer. While she’s at home unclogging the sink, he’s sharing a post-coital cocktail with his latest pickup and excusing himself from the table for a quick “What’s your sign?” to the barmaid. He’s also bedding his female clients (he’s a real estate salesman who finds a variety of uses for unoccupied rental property) and the baby sitter

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—all in the course of an average afternoon. Laurent’s serial adultery continues until car trouble brings Marijo (Josiane Balasko), a tough-talking lesbian, into the couple’s lives. Loli invites the stranger in to use the phone, and before long the two are swapping life stories over fat cigars.

Initially, Loli is only titillated by Marijo’s advances, but after a bumbling friend spills the beans about Laurent’s philandering, Loli invites Marijo into her bed and, soon thereafter, her house. Laurent is scandalized, then turns sulky, the extremity of the situation having evidently brought home the fact that he loves his wife. He refuses to leave, and the three—plus the couple’s kids—set up housekeeping together. The situation is further complicated when Loli begins to feel sorry for Laurent, and Marijo catches husband and wife sleeping together. Thereafter, Loli determines to sleep with Marijo and Laurent three days each per week, with the seventh day off for resting. The situation is complicated further still—hey, this is a sex comedy

—when the arrival of Marijo’s old girlfriend makes unlikely accomplices of Laurent and Marijo.

The trio’s rapidly shifting alliances are funny at first, but the film becomes more farcical and less convincing as it progresses. It’s not long before Loli is doing a slapstick routine with a huge pot of ketchup-splattered spaghetti and Laurent is tumbling off his bicycle into a pig pen. And though Marijo becomes a member of the family—in more ways than one—there is a sense in which she’s simply a marital aid for a couple of hapless heterosexuals (Loli even says, somewhat selfishly, “Aren’t we happier since she came?”). In the end, Twist’s message seems to be that there’s nothing like a lesbian to put the spice back in your marriage.CP