The Names of Love: Making Love as War

movie poster for Names of Love
baya with crabs

Look at me, aren’t I just so cute and free-spirited?

Brace yourselves, kids: the manic pixie dream girl has traveled abroad.  She’s been spotted recently in the 2010 French film The Names of Love, (now available on Netflix Instant) in the form of Baya Benmahmoud, a bright-eyed woman wandering the streets of Paris.

She’s political, caring so much about social justice that she marries men in order to grant them French citizenship.  She’s had a string of husbands for this very reason, and would have even more except the whole divorce process takes so long.  Sometimes she’s just such an adora-klutz that she wanders down the street naked because she received an important phone call while getting dressed, and dashed out the door before putting her clothes on!  How hilariously cute!

Baya‘s modus operandi is to sleep with social conservatives to convert them.  She does so through subliminal messaging; she makes statements in support of liberal ideas at delicate moments, when the man is otherwise distracted but acutely vulnerable.  At perhaps the moment, if you will.  Actually, you know what, Baya, that is hilarious.  You keep on manic-pixie-ing, I’ll allow it.

Perhaps the reason why I found Baya closer to the enchanting, or at least entertaining, end of the manic pixie spectrum than the annoying or odious is that her main function in the movie wasn’t to “fix” the leading man.  He loosened up a touch by the end of the

wardrobe not-so-malfunction

My clothes always do this. Sometimes I mean them to, sometimes I don’t.

film, but then she also learned to remember to put her clothes on, so I’ll chalk it up to personal character growth rather than learning how to let go thanks to a magical woman.

Our lead, Arthur Martin, is enjoying his life well enough before Baya comes along.  His main complaint would be that he shares a name with a well-known kitchen appliance, so every time he meets someone new he has to hear “like the cooker?” during the introductions.

Arthur doesn’t date Baya because he wants her to fix his life; he doesn’t feel like he’s in a rut or even that he needs someone to shake things up.  He likes Baya because she’s beautiful, passionate, makes him laugh, and will have open, honest conversations with him.  She’s drawn to him because he’s a surprise; she met him because she wanted to accuse him of fascism (she accuses everyone with whom she disagrees of that) when she heard Arthur, a veterinary forensic scientist, tell the public to exercise caution over a bird flu scare.

Although Arthur is practically old enough to be her father he has no problem with Baya’s lifestyle; he accepts the fact that she lives with former lovers and marries other men (one for a place to live, the other for a green card) while they’re dating.  They might have a number of rather contrasting opinions, but they seem to genuinely enjoy debating; to my surprise few of their arguments led to actual fights.

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