Over a decade before the Woody Allen-Soon Yi scandal and 28 years before Roman Polanski‘s arrest in Zurich, there was a delightful little French film about a 30-something piano player (Patrick Dewaere) reluctantly and guiltily slipping into a relationship with his 14 year-old stepdaughter (Ariel Besse). Largely, it must be said, because her pursuit of him is so urgent and relentless. Yep, yep…cue the outrage! But in its own delicate and melancholy way, it worked. Only in France, I suppose, and way back when.

The film was Bertrand Blier‘s Beau Pere (’81), and for some reason it came to mind an hour or two ago. I don’t feel the slightest guilt in recommending it.

Something tells me that such a film would never be made in today’s France, and it goes without saying U.S. viewers would never tolerate the thought, much less the reality, of a Hollywood version. But it’s a genuinely likable and sensitive little film, or so I recall. It’s quite a feat to pull off a tricky situation of this sort without sounding the moral alarm bells, but Blier somehow managed it.

All I know is that it felt mostly okay when Dewaere and Besse had their intimate moment. I can’t remember if it happened more than once, but I know the tone was calibrated just so and Dewaere’s guilt was performed at just the right pitch so that Beau Pere didn’t feel like Lolita. Don’t ask me to precisely explain. It’s been nearly 30 years since I’ve seen it. No VHS, laser disc, DVD…nothing.

I just wish I still lived in a world in which films like Beau Pere were made and seen and enjoyed and then shrugged off. No such luck in 2010 Trollworld. It’s a matter of seconds before somebody makes a crack…forget it. Not going there.

Beau Pere‘s Remi is one of Dewaere‘s best roles, and nearly his last. He shot himself in July 1982, or roughly a year after Beau Pere‘s release. Deweare was also superb in Blier’s Going Places and Get Out Your Handkerchiefs.