We all have to admit, some of us a little reluctantly, that Netflix has changed our viewing habits immeasurably. Yet, for all the wonderful range of series and movies it offers, it can sometimes be difficult to discover good programs, especially those not in English, unless they are recommended by friends.
This was the case for me with the three seasons of the wonderful French series, Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent), set in Paris, which is soon to launch a fourth, and reportedly final, season on Netflix. For those francophiles out there who do not already know the show, the current period of confinement is the ideal time both to discover a fun, creative series that is packed with guest appearances by many of the greats of modern French cinema and to enjoy seeing scenes shot on the streets of Paris, which we know so well and wish we could be walking on freely right now.
The inspiration for the series may well have come from Ricky Gervais’s Extras, which featured cameos from many well-known English and American actors, including Kate Winslett, Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer, but Call My Agent manages to surpass its British forebear in the cohesion and development of its central narrative.
The story revolves around a talent agency run by four agents who will go to just about any extreme to get and keep a famous client: Andréa (played with gutsy charisma by Camille Cottin), Mathias (Thibault de Montalembert), Gabriel (Grégory Montel) and Arlette (Liliane Rovère). One of the greatest joys of the series is the way these four principal characters are so different from each other and yet work wonderfully well together as an ensemble.
Other characters in the office include Camille (Fanny Sidney), Mathias’s secret daughter from an extramarital relationship; Sofia (Stéfi Celma), the receptionist who dreams of becoming an actor; the excitable Noémie (Laure Calamy), who worships her boss, Mathias, in more ways than one; and the sometimes equally excitable Hervé (Nicolas Maury).
What gives the show its true star quality is the movie stars themselves. They each play a cameo role as themselves in one or two episodes and are not averse to sending themselves up rotten. The first season includes Cécile de France, who thinks she is about to land a major American movie role; the mother-daughter duo Nathalie Baye and Laura Smet, who both get offered the same script; and Julie Gayet and Joey Starr, who play lovers in a period drama but detest each other in real life.
The highlights of Season 2 include Fabrice Luchini, playing a gloriously insecure and vain version of himself; Isabelle Adjani; and Juliette Binoche, who is forced to wear a truly awful dress to a gala premiere at the Cannes Film festival.
Season 3 does not let up on the big names, with appearances from Jean Dujardin, Monica Bellucci, Gérard Lanvin, Béatrice Dalle and Isabelle Huppert, around whom the season ends with a beautifully constructed and hilarious finale.
Before Season 4 starts, do catch up on this gem of a series. It manages to discuss profound issues, such as commitment in relationships, feelings of abandonment, and racism, with a lightness of touch and candor that I have rarely seen in other French cinema or television.
Note: Call My Agent is subtitled in English on Netflix.