“A month among girls”, on France 5: Maryse Choisy, ambiguous portrait of a paradoxical woman

Audrey Gordon has created notable documentaries with always unique themes, Première campaign (2017), Siblings (2018), A love story under the Italian occupation (2021)

“A month among girls”, on France 5: Maryse Choisy, ambiguous portrait of a paradoxical woman

Audrey Gordon has created notable documentaries with always unique themes, Première campaign (2017), Siblings (2018), A love story under the Italian occupation (2021). A Month Among Girls (2023), which she wrote with Emilie Musset, is no exception to the rule by focusing on Maryse Choisy (1903-1979), a somewhat forgotten literary figure.

In 1928, this young journalist raised in a cultivated and wealthy environment convinced Fernand Aubier, the boss of Montaigne editions, to publish a report immersing herself in the world of “claques” and girls of joy. Maryse Choisy poses as a chambermaid, socializing with the lesbian clientele of the “temples of Lesvos” (she will cross-dress as a man on other occasions).

His report, A Month Among Girls (Montaigne, 1928), which echoes that of Albert Londres in 1926 on the slave trade, caused a scandal and sold some 450,000 copies. The writing is catchy, but "does not curl naturally", as Cocteau said of Giraudoux's, and overuses somewhat facile formulas ("the emerald of crème de menthe" and the "topazes of champagne" come up a lot) .

More embarrassing, Maryse Choisy, reputed to be free, demonstrates in this book a narrow mind when she slips into a "men's house for men" (a passage ignored by the documentary because it is indeed off-topic) or accuses the clients " too stupid to find a female outside the brothel.” She will also conclude by recommending the closure of… brothels.

Abundant personality

Prolific author (reports, essays, novels, poetry), palmist, wild beast tamer, occult lover, patient of Freud (three sessions only, in 1925), Maryse Choisy became known in the circles of French psychoanalysis within which she acts in particular in the service of a rapprochement with Catholicism, to the point of becoming bigoted. She will also disapprove of his youthful nimbleness.

We would have liked to know more about this abundant personality. But, to do this, it would have been necessary to integrate the codes of classic documentary, with interventions from specialists and historians, which the director wanted to avoid. She preferred to stay on the border between documentary and fiction film.

This appetizer and images of extracts from the book A Month Among the Girls is illustrated by real-false reconstituted archives, which complement old erotic photos and scenes from rare libertine films. It is a skillful, refined work, but which seems to paint a somewhat biased and partial portrait of a paradoxical woman.

And we have to, alas!, go through the diction of the actress Jeanne Balibar, all in old-fashioned chatter, who both plays Maryse Choisy in a reconstructed television interview and acts as narrator of the passages taken from the book. But her physical resemblance to Nine d'Urso, who plays the young author, is on the other hand convincing.

To find out more about Maryse Choisy, it is true that you can always find out online, particularly on the well-documented site of Grégory Halleux, the film's historical advisor, and purchase the reissue of Un mois chez les filles (Stock , 2015).