François Ozon is my favorite French director. His characters are so complex, which contrasts with Ozon’s campy aesthetics. Une nouvelle amie is François Ozon by way of Pedro Almodóvar. Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) and Laura (Isild Le Besco) have been friends since childhood. When Laura meets and marries David (Romain Duris), you can see that Claire wishes she was in David’s place. Then Claire falls in love with Gilles (Raphaël Personnaz). When Laura dies, David is left alone to raise his baby daughter. On an impromptu visit Claire walks in on David in full drag with his baby daughter in his arm. Claire is at first shocked and even calls David a “pervert”, but she promises to not tell anyone. David is not gay, she learns. Like most male to female crossdressers, David is straight. She tells Gilles she made a new friend: Virginia. On another day Claire and Virginia go shopping to buy new clothes for Virginia. They also go to a drag queen show together. David shares the same secret with Claire he shared with Laura. And after the lost of Laura, Claire has now found a new girlfriend. Every one has secrets in this film, and there is a hint that Gilles also leads a double life. From the instant you see Romain Duris, you know that something is askew. His David seems so androgynous. Ozon does that consciously. For most of Une nouvelle amie, Ozon shows us Claire and David/Virginia’s awkwardness as they grapple with conflicting issues: sexual attraction or friendship, male or female, gay or straight, crossdressing or transgenderism. And the director keeps them (and us) guessing until the last scenes where there is an affirmation of self and life. It’s like Duris plays on a tightrope. Does he play a man dressing as a woman, a woman or a man slowly becoming a woman? But Demoustier has the best moment in the film when she sings an a capella version of Nicole Croisille’s Une femme avec toi.
Une nouvelle amie (The new girlfriend)
Based on a short story by Ruth Rendell
Isild Le Besco
In French with English subtitles