Entries tagged with “Francois Ozon”.


After having seen last week the 2016 “Frantz” I continued yesterday my ( cure with “The Double Lover” (or “L’amant double” in original) the latest film of the French director, a film that was present also in the 2017 competition at the Cannes festival. Both movies deal with issues of identity, truth and deception and how these can impact relationships between men and women. This is were similarities stop. There are many differences and almost all in favor of the 2016 film.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6367558/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6367558/

 

The story which is ‘freely’ inspired by a novel by Joyce Carol Oates (which has already originated a movie by starts as the story about a relationship between a psychoanalyst and his patient that turns into a strange and uneasy love affair. While the relation between shrink and patient needs to be based on trust and truth, in this case the contrary happens, as each of the two characters avoids fully sharing their feelings, hides things from the past, speaks half truths or plain lies. They seem that they cannot work as a couple on any plan. The bad start of the relation develops to worse and the odd things that happen on screen are complicated by having them told in a mix of genres – French art film with Paris and a museum of disturbing modern art as background, erotic thriller, horror and guilt in the Hitchcock and Polanski traditions. All these get together in a ‘bouillion’ that becomes less and less credible, up to the point that the story cannot be solved but by explaining that all was some kind of dementia delirium with very prosaic physiological roots.  What should have been a sophisticated game of mirrors becomes a multiplication of images by mirrors disposed in a chaotic manner. To make things worse, the ending makes the mistake of explaining too much in sordid details. Hard to believe that the film with this ending comes in the filmography of Ozon just after “Frantz” with the wonderful ambiguity of its open ending.

 

(video source September Film Distribution)

 

Acting is also problematic. Ozon’s choice of actors seems sometimes odd (not only here) because they are characters that do not feel well in their own skins. In this case he chose (his discovery in  “Young & Beautiful “) for a role that needs more expressiveness and fragility than what the actress delivered on screen. There is no chemistry between her and either of the two selves (or twin brothers) played by  . I will never complain about seeing again in a film and I apreciate Ozon’s creating in every film of his strong and interesting feminine characters that break the stereotypes, but her role or maybe roles (another odd double) seem to be wasted talent here.

The Double Lover” never reaches at cinematographic level its ambitions. The jury at Cannes 2017 deserves an award for not giving – despite the names of the director and the cast – any award to this movie.

 

Frantz‘ is one of those films that follows you long after the screening is over. What I and maybe many other viewers of ‘s 2016 film  will remember years from now will be the silhouettes of the two principal heroes – the beautiful German young woman Anna (interpeted by ) whose lover, Frantz,  fell on the front two months before the end of the First World War and the out-of-world French young man Adrien Rivoire (actor ) who is also an ex-soldier, has met Anna’s lover some time in the past, and comes to put flowers on his empty grave and ease the grief of Anna and Frantz’s parents.  One may say that is a miscast, and maybe this is true, but he is a miscast not as an actor, but in the world his fate was to live in.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5029608/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5029608/

 

Frantz himself gives the name of the film, as all characters are tormented by his absence, his falling in the war makes him the victim, but actually everybody in this film is a victim of the absurdity of the war. The film succeeds to present in a moving manner how destinies are cut short by war, and how difficult are healing, forgetting, forgiving. It also asks questions about the capability of humans to cope with the horrors of the past – can they do it while facing the truth which is sometimes more cruel than their imagination allows? Or maybe lies are allowed when they can help healing or avoid reopening fatal wounds?

Ozon’s film also carries an anti-war message. The heroes belong to the two sides of a war that created devastation for both nations. One may have been victor, the other defeated, but both countries are in ruins, millions of lives were lost, the survivors continue to carry the scars of the war traumas but also the germs of hate that will be at the root of the next war. The symmetry of scenes and situations may seem demonstrative, but it’s good to remember that blood, enmity and mistrust divided Europe no so long ago.

 

(video source Moviefone)

 

The film makes use of black and white for the majority of the time, with colors inserted in some key moments, without necessarily marking the borders between reality and imagination, past and present, truth or fiction. It was a very good idea in my opinion to avoid the trap of a happy ending and to leave more ambiguity in place, with a mysterious lesser known painting of Manet handling to the viewers the key to what may have happened next. Questions marks are relevant for both past and future.

Having liked the last film of Francois Ozon (Dans la maison‘) as well as some of his previous work I jumped on the opportunity of seeing one of his earlier works screened at the local cinematheque. ’5×2′ is based on an interesting idea – telling the story of a relationship in five episodes backwards, from its breaking in divorce to the moment of the ignition, although the idea was not completely new by 2004 when the film was made, as Christopher Nolan‘s Memento was made in 2000 and Gaspar Noe‘s Irreversible in 2002. Although Noe’s film was also telling the story of a relationship, both predecessors were much more violent films. I almost have the feeling that Francois Ozon tried to experiment the same technique of story telling and picked on purpose a quite banal relationship story, broke it into episodes and told it a la reverse, experimenting with the output. Can a director tell a nicer and softer story this way? Will it gain in interest? Will the perspective change because of the story telling technique?

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0354356/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0354356/

 

The answer to the last question is ‘somehow, yes’. The story of the eventually failed relation between Marion (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stephane Freiss) has nothing extraordinary by itself, it’s a rather banal encounter of mid-class professionals, they fall for each other, they marry, they have a child, betrayals and occasional sex games throw some ambiguity in their lives, the parents may or may not influence the couple, and eventually the marriage does not hold, as half of the marriages facing similar crisis do not hold, while the other half do.  The technique of telling the story changes the pace – by making us anticipate what happened BEFORE and not AFTER, after we realize the trick – and the eventual feeling – by telling us the first encounter last the ultimate impression is positive, despite the fact that as viewers we know that in the real logic of time the story does not end well. The director however decided here to reverse time and by doing this, the happy beginning turned into some kind of a happy end.

 

(video source ZahranicniTrailery)

 

Good acting supports the director’s intention. Both lead actors are credible, they play in a sincere and direct manner, and I suspect that if I had seen the variant where time runs normally (actually Ozon made such a variant) I would have been slightly disappointed. ’5×2′ is an apparently simple exercise in story-telling which is smarter than it first seems.

 

Dans la maison (In the House) directed by Francois Ozon is one of the the most surprising films i have seen lately. Adaptation of a play, the screen is so smart that my major question is how is it that Woody Allen did not write it first? or maybe he wrote it under disguise?

 

source www.impawards.com

source www.impawards.com

 

It is really such an Allen-esque story, which mingles real life and imagination, the writer as a creator of life, and life as a creator of literature.  It even has a thread about relations of adults and underage and even if it loses a little bit of steam by the end, talking so much about a good ending for the story that it forgets to create a real good and non-conventional one, it is still one of the smartest and most original scripts I have watched lately brought in screen. The hero is a professor of literature Germain (Fabrice Luchini), smart enough to abhor the re-introduction of uniforms in high school, whose literary ambitions were not fulfilled and who finds a goal (and a change in the routine) in pygmalionizing one of his pupils Claude (Ernst Umhauer) in the ways of literature. As it happens Clude’s subjects are his friend and colleague Rapha (Bastien Ughetto), his house which is the middle class dream for a poor kid from the peripheries, and his family or especially his mother (Emmanuelle Seigner) who becomes the object of his teenage dreams and guilty desires. As the story develops, the house becomes the stage of the action, reality inspires fiction at first just to make room for literary fiction becoming reality, the intervention of the teacher becomes much more than correction of grammar or style, it starts to be correction of destinies. All in a fluent and well paced style for most of the time.

 

(video source abcscope)

 

I liked the acting of Fabrice Luchini, well supported by other fine actors as the two charming Kristin Scott Thomas (as his wife, co-reader of Rapha’s essays and supporting character playing eventually a surprising role in the story) and Emmanuelle Seigner. All of them act solidly, their problems are credible, and we can feel the atmosphere and the torments of the middle class in the French province. The two teenager roles are played with the natural touch and expected freshness by Ernst Umhauer and Bastien Ughetto (the latest is very promising, may he have luck in getting distributed in roles that fit his talent and his face!). Overall it’s a smart and funny movie, worth seeing for many reasons.