Sunday, November 17, 2013

Two Queer French Films

Dans la maison (In the House), 2012, directed by François Ozon, is many things. It is a story about a cynical teacher and a talented student. It is also a study of the sexual frustration of middle-class women, the art gallery owner married to the teacher, and the housewife married to a corporate hick. At the heart of the film is the voyeur in everyone of us, the student (compelling Ernst Umhauer) who wants to see what a perfect family looks like, the teacher (Fabrice Luchini), and his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas). It is an homage to Teorema by Pier Paolo Pasolini, in which a stranger enters a home and seduces everyone in it, maid, son, mother, daughter, and father. And, most profoundly, the film is an allegory for the creative process. The fact that all these levels cannot be separated from one another easily as the film moves towards its unexpected ending is a testament to the skill and vision of the director. GH and I watched it last weekend, and we still felt its impact last night as we watched another French gayish movie.

Directed by Zabou Breitman, L'homme de sa vie (The Man of My Life), 2006, is a lesser film, but is nevertheless lifted above the average by its beautiful cinematography and the acting of its leads. Charles Berling plays Hugo, the gay man who walks into the life of married man Frédéric, who is played by Bernard Campan. The chemistry between the men was understated but powerful. Frédéric is attracted to the unconventional and articulate intellect in Hugo, and its promise of freedom and ecstasy. Hugo, whose attraction grows more slowly, is drawn to Frédéric's open sincerity, so different from his own dogmatic stance against marriage and relationships. Léa Drucker is wonderful as Frédéric's wife, realizing and then watching with anguish her husband falling in love with another. The minor characters were less well-integrated into the film than they could have been. The editing was somewhat choppy, and the surrealistic scenes were cheesy. The film is, however, persuasive in showing how a man, who has always taken his heterosexuality for granted, learns that he is capable of some other feeling.

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