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La femme publique (1984)

An unexperienced young actress is invited to play a role in a film based on Dostoyevsky's 'The Possessed'. The film director, a Czech immigrant in Paris, takes over her life, and in a short... See full summary »


Andrzej Zulawski


Dominique Garnier (scenario), Andrzej Zulawski (scenario) | 1 more credit »
2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Francis Huster ... Lucas Kessling
Valérie Kaprisky ... Ethel (as Valerie Kaprisky)
Lambert Wilson ... Milan Mliska
Patrick Bauchau ... Le père d'Ethel
Gisèle Pascal ... Gertrude
Roger Dumas ... André, le photographe
Diane Delor Diane Delor ... Elena Mliska
Jean-Paul Farré Jean-Paul Farré ... Pierre
Olivier Achard Olivier Achard ... Le premier assistant réalisateur
Yveline Ailhaud Yveline Ailhaud ... Rachel
Michel Albertini Michel Albertini ... Maurice
Marianne Basler Marianne Basler ... Une jeune anarchiste
Nathalie Bécue Nathalie Bécue ... L'habilleuse (as Nathalie Becue)
Lucas Belvaux ... François
René Bériard René Bériard ... Mgr Shlapas (as Rene Beriard)


An unexperienced young actress is invited to play a role in a film based on Dostoyevsky's 'The Possessed'. The film director, a Czech immigrant in Paris, takes over her life, and in a short time she is unable to draw the line between acting and reality. She winds up playing a real-life role posing as the dead wife of another Czech immigrant, who is manipulated by the filmmaker into commiting a political assasination. Written by Yuri German <blsidt1@imf.org>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

16 May 1984 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Public Woman See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Valérie Kaprisky took dance lessons to perform her two nude dance scenes. She practiced to the music of David Bowie and two of his songs were played on set during the scenes. But obtaining the rights to use Bowie's music would have eclipsed the film's entire budget, so composer Alain Wisniak had to create new music to go with the footage. See more »

Alternate Versions

U.S. based video label Mondo Video selected this film as its debut release. Their 2008 DVD is the first to have English subtitles. Prior to this release, the film was only available officially in select European countries. See more »


Referenced in Druuna: Morbus Gravis (2001) See more »


Grande messe en Ut' Mineur KV 427
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as W.A. Mozart)
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User Reviews

Zulawski and Kaprisky in a nice slice of Gallic insanity
2 February 2007 | by lazarilloSee all my reviews

Andrej Zulawski's most famous film "Possession" was released more or less in English, but still barely made a lick of sense, so I didn't have much luck with this one which is so far only available in French or (in the version I saw)Italian. This may not matter though as much of the film is taken up by scenes of the gorgeous Valerie Kaprisky dancing around buck naked or having sex with various men. Model/actress Kaprisky plays a model/actress (there's a stretch). Her "modeling seems to consist mostly of her stripping to the skin and doing bizarre dances to horrid Europop numbers while a creepy, elderly photographer snaps pictures of her impressive torso. Maybe it's the awful music, but these sessions inevitably seem to end in her or the photog. having some kind of physical or emotional breakdown. Zulawski uses the same confusing temporal dislocation here he used in "Possession". In one session the photographer apparently drops dead from a heart attack, but in the next he is not only alive but apparently fit enough to go crazy, grab Kaprisky by the throat, and start shoving dollar bills in her mouth (and other, off-screen orifices)for some reason...

Meanwhile her character is also appearing in a legitimate movie (apparently some kind of costume drama). The director of the movie is bedding Kaprisky, but he seems more interested in trying to cause her to have some kind of real-life emotional breakdown for the sake of his "art" (ironically, Isabel Adjani had accused director Zulawski of trying to do the exact same thing to her in "Possession"). She also becomes involved with another crew-member who is apparently one of those vague French Marxist revolutionaries of that era (an era in which the US military was still protecting bourgeois France from all those "Marxist revolutionaries" over in the USSR). Naturally, a whole lot of pathos ensues.

Kaprisky gives a very committed performance, even if she is definitely no Isabel Adjani. This is probably her best film (although that's not necessarily saying much). The movie really isn't anymore non-sensical than "Possession" (in fact, it would probably be less so if it had English subtitles),and like that film it's at least not boring for one minute. If you take all that for a recommendation, by all means help yourself to this little slice of Gallic insanity.

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