Review by Frank Plowright
Séverine lives with a boyfriend while studying at university, paying her way with babysitting jobs. In all aspects of her life she’s a background figure, at best mildly acknowledged, at worst brusquely dismissed. One night when babysitting a child is sick on her, and the father lends her one of his wife’s silk blouses to replace a top that needs washed, the surprising generosity logically explained. She attempts to return the blouse, but there’s no reply to her messages, so chooses to wear it again. Suddenly she finds she’s noticed and people respond to her, although her boyfriend is the notable exception, still preferring to watch SF videos in bed.
Being noticed elevates her confidence immensely, and when she wears the blouse again she attracts even more attention, which spurs her on to taking chances that she’d never previously have considered. As she becomes more aware of the effect she has on men, her libido also increases.
Bastien Vivès builds in deliberate ambiguity. Is the blouse just the means for Séverine to emerge from her shell, or is it somehow the motivating factor? Whatever the reason, it transforms her life, but in keeping the attention on her, very little thought is applied to the remaining cast, who’re all one-dimensional beings designed to reflect her.
Artistically Vivès has the peculiar habit of not bothering to draws the eyes on some faces. It seems to serve no artistic purpose other than saving a few minutes per page, and constantly distracts from what should be noticed in a panel. It’s all the more evident because Vivès isn’t an artist keen on needless fripperies. Discounting the eyes, everything needed in a panel is there and expressively drawn to move the story where it needs to go.
Midway there’s a wild swerve into crime fiction as Séverine attaches herself to a police detective, another undeveloped character except when it comes to the equation of obsession requiring possession via brutality. There’s a nice metaphor of her life disintegrating along with the blouse, but the way she’s written by Vivès constantly sends out mixed messages, some of which are disturbing. Does Séverine’s transformation into a male fantasy figure resonate with him as empowering? The way he lingers on sex scenes would suggest that’s not the reasoning. Readers are left to make up their own minds about motivation in what’s a thought-provoking, but ultimately unsatisfying story raised by the meticulous art.