Nelly Kaplan, whose witty, satire-tinged French movies about feminine empowerment and revenge made her a particular voice in a male-dominated period, died on Nov. 12 in Geneva. She was 89.
Ms. Kaplan, who was born in Argentina, arrived in Paris in her early 20s and have become each a filmmaking and a romantic companion of Abel Gance, the French director recognized for the revolutionary silent film “Napoleon” (1927). In 1969 she drew acclaim along with her first characteristic, “A Very Curious Girl.” (The French title was “La Fiancée du Pirate,” or “The Pirate’s Fiancée.”)
It starred Bernadette Lafont, an actress already well-known from the New Wave movies of Claude Chabrol and others, as Marie, a younger servant who’s preyed upon by males in her village till she turns the tables on them by charging for sexual favors and tape-recording the encounters, finally exposing the townspeople’s hypocrisy.
That movie was the centerpiece of “Wild Things: The Ferocious Films of Nelly Kaplan,” a retrospective on the Quad Cinema in Manhattan in 2019 that helped gasoline a brand new appreciation of her work and her characters.
“While very much of its time, ‘A Very Curious Girl’ remains amazingly fresh after 50 years,” the movie critic J. Hoberman wrote in The Times then. “Marie’s triumph is not just a victory for her sex and class but, given the explicitly xenophobic nature of the smug patriarchal order that she upends, a win for outsiders and outcasts of all varieties.”
Ms. Kaplan made only some characteristic movies after that, and none achieved the extent of acclaim that her debut did.