Jacques Demy’s A Slightly Pregnant Man was a flop when it came out (the director didn’t work for years after its release), and it has remained an obscure, hard-to-see movie, in spite of its starry lead couple, Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve. Its DVD release comes as a welcome surprise, revealing a neglected, intriguing examination of pregnancy as a high form of creativity. It has the familiar, intoxicating Demy trappings: a wild color scheme filled with fuzzy shades of orange, a Michel Legrand score, a fairy-tale aura, and extremely French attitudes. Matrons casually discuss the existence of God as they get their hair done in Deneuve’s beauty parlor, and everyone takes the crazy news of Mastroianni’s pregnancy with Gallic sangfroid.
This seems to be a very personal movie for Demy, a gay man who married another talented filmmaker, Agnès Varda. Not much is known about their marriage and what it entailed, but A Slightly Pregnant Man clearly expresses the yearning of an artist who wanted to have family and who also wanted to be with men. Male pregnancy is the most romantic solution to Demy’s dilemma (gay adoption is today’s prosaic alternative). The concept of the film isn’t a commercial gimmick played for easy laughs, as in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Junior—it’s a metaphor for change, both social and otherwise. The credits show men walking on the moon, and there’s lots of talk about women’s lib; one woman remarks that if men can get pregnant, they’ll have to legalize abortion. This is a movie from a progressive period when many new things still seemed possible, when the rigid lines of demarcation between men and women were starting to blur.
The ever-sated Mastroianni is wittily cast as the first pregnant man, though he and Deneuve are too similar in their passivity to have any real chemistry. (Mastroianni needs a Jeanne Moreau to balance him, while Deneuve needs someone like Alain Delon). The other actors enjoy themselves, especially Micheline Presle as an increasingly incoherent doctor who turns pundit on talk shows. The pace is slow and the ending is abrupt and rather unresolved, but A Slightly Pregnant Man is a provocative, if minor, Demy film.