Beau-père (anglicized to Beau Pere or Stepfather) is a 1981 French comedy-drama film directed by Bertrand Blier, based on his novel of the same name. It stars Patrick Dewaere, Ariel Besse and Maurice Ronet and is about a 30-year-old pianist who has an affair with his 14-year-old stepdaughter after her mother dies in a car accident.
The film played at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival and had an international release. It received some positive reviews in spite of its controversial subject.
Rémi is a struggling pianist with a wife named Martine, a model who is getting too old to find desirable work, and a 14-year-old stepdaughter Marion. When Martine is killed in a car crash, Marion expresses her desire to stay with Rémi in their apartment, but is taken away by her father Charly, an alcoholic who dislikes Rémi. Marion comes back, much to her father's disapproval, and takes up babysitting to help make ends meet while Rémi gives piano lessons. Soon, Marion tells Rémi she is physically attracted to him, but he resists her advances because of her young age.
When Marion proves to be anemic, she is sent to the mountains with her father while Rémi loses his apartment and moves in with friends. A broken man, he meets with Marion and they have sex in a hotel. She comes back to live with him in a run-down and condemned house, and although he first resists any more sex, gradually gives in. While visiting, Marion's father at one point sees the two embrace. He asks them if they are having an affair, but when Rémi objects, Charly apologizes and leaves. Eventually Rémi takes interest in an older woman, Charlotte, who is also a more skilled piano player, while Marion also seeks out a substitute for him and moves back in with her father.
Writer and director Bertrand Blier declared Beau Pere was intended as "an ode to the fair sex and to womanhood in its purest form." Like Blier's earlier film Going Places (1974), he based it on a novel he had written, also titled Beau-père.
The film was shot in Sèvres and Ville-d'Avray. The bass played by Maurice Risch's character is performed by musician Stéphane Grappelli.
The film stars Patrick Dewaere, and is one of his last films. He had appeared in Blier's films before, though never without Gérard Depardieu. Actress Nathalie Baye described her role as small, but said working with Blier and producer Alain Sarde was educational, and Blier managed to both listen to others while having a vision of what he wanted to shoot.
Beau Pere also stars Ariel Besse in her first film role, and she was 15 at the time. Although she is nude in the film, her parents gave approval, saying she was treated sensitively. Besse secured the role after Sophie Marceau turned it down.
The film was entered into the Cannes Film Festival in May 1981. It had a total of 1,197,816 admissions in France, with Blier claiming the poster chosen by the distributor was awkward and discouraged the public from seeing the film. Besse's parents sued the distributors and producers over the poster, which shows Besse's breasts, as it was placed on billboards around France without their permission. The judge favoured the producers, saying the film was more revealing than the poster. Beau Pere was among Blier's least commercially successful films.
The film played at the New York Film Festival in October 1981. The film was released in the U.K. as Stepfather and in the U.S. as Beau Pere. In Canada, the film was banned in the province of Ontario but approved for Quebec and British Columbia, and was a particularly controversial case concerning censorship and community standards.
The film has received positive reviews. Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader observes similarities to Lolita and says Beau Pere "has enough of Blier's customary taboo-busting vigor to provide a reasonably unsettling good time." Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote in 1981 that despite the objectionable subject matter, "Mr. Blier tells this story very gently, with as much attention to the humor of the situation as to its eroticism." She also stated Besse played the character as an "extremely changeable creature, childish one minute and precocious the next." People called the film convincing and touching, and in spite of the topic, not pornographic. Lloyd Paseman, writing for the The Register-Guard, compared the film to Blier's earlier Get Out Your Handkerchiefs in its subject matter, but said Beau Pere was better, with Dewaere being "excellent" and Besse being "The main reason to see Beau Pere," comparing her to Brooke Shields. Conversely, David Denby of New York magazine panned the film as "heavy-handed and sluggish."
In his 2002 Movie & Video Guide, Leonard Maltin gives the film three and a half stars and calls it thoughtful and sensitive. James Berardinelli of ReelViews credits the film with a "provocative script featuring well-defined characters and a pair of powerful performances." Time Out dismissed the film as "polite porn," while Voir magazine notes the film may be shocking decades later. Rotten Tomatoes counted four favourable reviews out of five.
Beau Pere competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, but did not win. Author Rémi Fournier Lanzoni highlighted Beau Pere and Série noire in noting Dewaere never received the César Award for Best Actor.