Frantz

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur
Monotone.

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

Paul Verlaine, Chanson d’automne, 1866

François Ozon’s Frantz is a rare film that touch you more by what is unsaid than by the what is onscreen. In 1919, Anna (beautiful and talented Paula Beer), a young German woman, visits the grave of her dead fiancé. Frantz was killed during the war, and Anna still lives with his parents. Doktor Hans Hoffmeister (Ernst Stötzner) and his wife Magda (Marie Gruber) are very fond of Anna and would like her to find another suitor. But she misses him too much, and, like the Hoffmeisters, is still in mourning. One day Anna learns that a strange young man has been visiting the grave and leaving flowers. When she meets him she finds out that he’s French and that he wants to meet Frantz‘s parents. But that’s easier said than done. After a bloody war, there are a lot of anti-French sentiments in Germany. Not surprisingly Hans and Madga are reluctant to talk to him. But they do. His name is Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) and, he claims, he met Frantz in Paris before the war where they were both studying. He is overcome by emotions and starts to cry when he tells Anna and the Hoffmeisters how close he and Frantz were. In a flashback we see Frantz and Adrien visiting the Louvre. For that sequence, Ozon shifts from black & white to color. It is an idealized version of what happened. As if Adrien had romanticized the memories. Those “memories” of Frantz are painted with small touches of homoeroticism. Whatever reluctance the Hoffmeisters had is put aside as Adrien wins their affections. A scene where Adrien plays music on Frantz’s violin, also goes from black & white to color. Now it is Frantz’s parents who are trying to live through an idealized and colorized world, a world where everything is right again. Every characters in Frantz is living a lie, or rather a in make-believe world, the construct of their own fears and desires. This is at a their time when romantic ideas and ideals were the norms. They covered the truths to feel better, often without realizing it. Or they did, as Anna does, to avoid causing pain to their loved ones. And Adrien? You have to read between the lines to decipher Adrien’s truths. Every one will have their own interpretation. Pierre Niney is having fun playing a romantic, delicate young man who may also be a liar. Or is he telling the truth? We can never tell. That’s what I love about Frantz. It is a complex quagmire of unconscious desires. Frantz is a masterpiece.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Frantz

Directed by:
François Ozon

Screenplay by:
François Ozon
Philippe Piazzo
Based on Maurice Rostand’s play L’homme que j’ai tué and the Ernst Lubitsch film Broken lullaby

Starring:
Paula Beer
Pierre Niney
Ernst Stötzner
Marie Gruber
Anton von Lucke

113 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In German and French with English subtitles.

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Une nouvelle amie (The new girlfriend)

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.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Une nouvelle amie (The new girlfriend)

Directed by:
François Ozon

Screenplay by:
François Ozon
Based on a short story by Ruth Rendell

Starring:
Romain Duris
Anaïs Demoustier
Raphaël Personnaz
Isild Le Besco
Aurore Clément

108 min.

In French with English subtitles

 

Jeune & jolie (Young & beautiful)

Vacationing with her family in the south of France, 17-year-old Isabelle (Marine Vacth) loses her virginity, but does not feel anything. Back in Paris she becomes a high-end prostitute. She starts her own website, changes her name to Lea and meets older, rich men after school. 300 Euros is her price. She steals her mother’s dresses to look older, and pretends she’s 20. Her most regular client is a kind older gentleman called Georges. At home nobody knows her secret. That is until an accident happens, and Isabelle’s mom gets a call from the police. It will not please some people, but Jeune & jolie is not a morality tale with neat lessons to be taken home after the film is over. What I liked the most here is the fact that director François Ozon camera does not judge Isabelle. There are no narrator telling us what she is doing, or why she is doing it. Nothing is spelled out for us. Jeune & jolie is the cold, clinical exploration of the subject. Marine Vacth impressed me with her way she shows Isabelle from innocence, sexual detachment, defiance and finally maturity. Géraldine Pailhas as Sylvie, Isabelle’s mother also give an excellent performance. It is topped by the late arrival of Charlotte Rampling (a Ozon favorite), whose performance only lasts a few minutes. There is a lot of sex and nudity in Jeune & jolie. Certainly not for prudes. It is nevertheless a classy act. And talk of classy act, Ozon adds great song from French singer extraordinaire Francoise Hardy. Imagine! A French film with French songs! I thought I was dreaming. Four songs for the four seasons that frames Isabelle’s story.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Jeune & jolie (Young & beautiful)

 

Directed by: 
François Ozon
 
Screenplay by: 
François Ozon
 
Starring: 
Marine Vacth
Géraldine Pailhas
Frédéric Pierrot
Charlotte Rampling
 
95 min.
 
Rated 18A
 
In French with English subtitles.