Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:39 pm 
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A French gay road movie with oddballs and Grindr

Gay viewers who expect this film to be a round of hot erotic encounters - or an intense melange of mystery and explicit sex like Giraudie's Stranger by the Lake - will be disappointed. Filmmaker Jérôme Reybaud has made a road movie with a decidedly gay focus, but his scope is more varied and bemused. His protagonist, 36-year-old Pierre Thomas (Pascal Cervo), though well primed for a tour of gay France with an attractive new white Alfa sedan and a smart phone loaded with Grindr, the worldwide gay hookup app, is as much as anything on a "fugue," as the French call it, an escape and a wild ramble. He's run off in the night from his Paris lover Paul (Arthur Igual) and gone wandering. After he fails to show up for a production of Cosi fan tutte for which Paul got them €150 seats, Paul goes in frantic pursuit of Pierre, using Grindr in turn as a search tool. As for Pierre, he goes where chance takes him, running into oddballs and old ladies more than hot men. This movie is whimsical, elegant, pretty, literary, a little too pleased with itself - and not really all that sexy. It requires some patience. In compensation it has humor, variety, poetry. And some sex.

Grindr is a geographical-locator app gay men list themselves on: options pop up wherever you go, and the use of it makes this look for a minute like an updated French country-wide version of John Retchy's pre-AIDS novel Numbers, in which a narcissist a tad past prime goes on a frantic sex tour of gay L.A., racking up as many sweaty, sperm-soaked encounters as possible in a ten-day period. Pierre starts out promisingly with Matthieu (Mathieu Chevé), a cute young guy in Bourges, who wants Pierre to pick him up on his way back and take him to Paris. But Pierre has no plan to return to Paris. He has no plan. He tells Matthieu to go to Paris on his own.

Pierre himself isn't wholly on his own. He calls his aunt, a theatrical grande dame, who cites Breton: "Hit the road." As someone else, a salesman (Bertrand Nadier) whom Pierre kisses, then masturbates thinking of through a wall, says, "only a car can give you certain sensations" of the land. Pierre becomes an automotive flaneur, a leisurely wanderer. When Matthieu gives him a package and a note for a lady up in the mountains, he later delivers it. Later he encounters a series of people, including a petty thief (female, Lætitia Dosch) who takes some of the most prized possessions he has with him; a fat old barkeep who wants only wordless, impersonal sex. He has a pretty, odd young godson, obviously gay, who haunts public toilets and memorizes facts about French towns. Pierre comes across a former teacher, now a mere provincial bookseller (Nathalie Richard). There are various ladies of a certain age - no young pretty ones. But Paul, hot on the trail, gets a blow job from a plain woman (Corinne Courège) working for a roadside fast food joint called Happy Dough (La Pâte à Bonheur) - out of kindness, because she won't take the mere €5 she's asking as a gift without providing the service.

4 Days in France has handsome cinematography, rich in painterly landscape, by Sabine Lancelin; the editing includes jump cuts expressive of Pierre's rudderless travels. The score includes classical excerpts, some opera. And a happy ending.

4 Days in France/Jours de France, 141 mins., debuted in the directors series at Venice. It opens in French cinemas 15 Mar. 2017. (It scored high with critics: AlloCiné 3.6.) Screened for this review as part of the New Directors/New Films 2017 series (Lincoln Center/MoMA). [Mike D'Angelo gives this film a 71, and has wound up putting it at number 10 in his favorite films list for 2016.]

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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