After a seemingly endless wait, it feels an almost indecent joy to watch the fourth – and final – season of the French series Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent) on Netflix. Not only do our favorite characters from the talent agency ASK roam the streets of Paris mask-less (and in one notable case, clothes-less), they also do what all Parisians used to do, greeting each other with a bise on each cheek, sitting in tightly packed cafés and restaurants, and often working in their offices till late at night, with not a curfew in sight.
This season takes up from where we left off and follows pretty much the same successful formula of the previous series: the future of ASK is in peril, and the agents need desperately to hang on to their high-profile actors in order to survive. As before, each of the six episodes revolves around film stars playing versions of themselves, but it is the regular characters who sustain our interest.
Camille Cottin continues her glorious portrayal of Andréa, this time forced to juggle the demands of being a partner in the agency with caring for her baby daughter during a crisis in her relationship with her girlfriend, Colette (Ophélia Kolb).
Mathias (Thibault de Montalembert) has left ASK to become a movie producer and has taken his former secretary, now his partner, Noémie (who is played with great comic energy by Laure Calamy), with him. Needless to say, in the cutthroat film world, Mathias and Noémie find themselves in direct competition for both writers and stars with their former colleagues, including Mathias’s daughter, Camille (Fanny Sidney), whom he is finally ready to acknowledge as his offspring.
As to the other partners in the firm, Gabriel (Grégory Montel) continues his on-off relationship with Sofia (Stéfi Celma), who has taken on Camille as both her agent and roommate, while Arlette (Liliane Rovère) provides notable plot points in the final season through her long experience with the agency and her love for her dog, Jean Gabin.
Hervé (Nicolas Maury), originally Gabriel’s assistant, is given greater prominence by accidentally finding himself acting in a film directed by Valérie Donzelli (played by herself). The hiring of a new agent, Élise (Anne Marivin), formerly employed by ASK’s deadly rival Starmedia, adds a good pinch of spice to the proceedings.
Then there are the stars, who give each episode such piquancy. The standouts for me were the ones featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg (episode 1) and Sigourney Weaver (episode 5). Gainsbourg is terrific as she agrees to act in and then tries to extract herself from a dreadful sci-fi movie directed by a fragile childhood friend, the script of which Andréa had recommended without actually reading it.
There are some clever references to Gainsbourg’s back catalog of movies, not least when she tries to convince herself to stick with her friend’s incoherent script by saying that she didn’t have the faintest idea of what was going on when she acted in Lars von Trier’s Antichrist either.
Weaver is glorious in her insistence that her love interest in the film she is starring in should be decades younger than her (she was expecting Gaspard Ulliel to be her costar and not the 80-year-old Bernard Verley, played by himself). Look out for a wonderful scene where she dances the Lindy Hop with a handsome young man in her hotel.
There are some wonderful moments in the other episodes, too, such as when Gabriel tries to massage the bruised ego of actor Franck Dubosc by engineering a magazine cover shoot (episode 2); when José Garcia rekindles his passion for a woman he thought he had abandoned decades before (episode 3); and when Sandrine Kiberlain (episode 4) decides to abandon the movie she is committed to in order to pursue her dream of becoming a standup comedian.
The final episode, which includes Andréa trying to persuade Jean Reno to appear in a film even though he has resolved to abandon cinema definitively, does not have the sheer brilliance of the Isabelle Huppert episode that closed the third series, but the ending is strangely touching.
A fortnight ago, as I was trying to persuade a French friend in Paris to watch the series, her son (born and bred in Paris and in his mid-20s) interjected to say that he didn’t like Call My Agent because it was “too Parisian.” I replied that that was probably precisely the reason why I love it so much. I suspect that many readers of Paris Update, especially those yearning to return to the City of Light, would agree with me.
For all its wild improbabilities, the sheer verve and joyousness of Call My Agent sweep away any misgivings. As people across the world wait for vaccinations to help combat this terrible pandemic, this final season provides just the tonic to fight the blues.
Note: Call My Agent is subtitled in English on Netflix.Favorite