Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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FLORENT GOUËLOU: THREE NIGHTS A WEEK/TROIS NUITS PAR SEMAINE (2022) - RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA

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Take a walk on the wild side: a sweet look at French drag queen life

This first French feature film dealing with the world of drag queens is an ambivalent, pleasantly teasing docudrama and romantic comedy centered around Baptiste (Pablo Pauly) the 29-year-old a supervisor at a FNAC store in Paris and aspiring art photographer who becomes fascinated with the world of drag queens in the course of doing a photo story about them. Baptiste is in a relationship with Samia (Hafsia Hedrsi of The Secret of the Grain), who tends to HIV-positive street people. And then he meets "Cookie Kunty"/Quentin (Romain Eck), a young drag queen in Paris, and "something" happens.

Is he in love or just fascinated? He is confused and Samia is not pleased and thinks (correctly) that their relationship is dissolving. The film takes us on a road trip when Baptiste takes time off from work to be the photographer for a group of drag queens who are going to compete for the Drag Olumpus, prize a trip and 20,000 euros. Along the way we meet Bobel (Harald Marlot), Klara Bolt (Mathias Houngnikpo), Iris (Holy Fatma), Javel Habibi (director Florent Gouëlou), and numerous others, including Quentin/Cookie's "Uncle Jean" (Jean-Marie Gouëlou).

There are tender moments and a little sex between Cookie and Baptiste. But Baptiste wants the boy, and the boy wants to be Cookie. There are three people in the ménage, as Baptiste tells in a summing up speech he improvises, implausibly but entertainingly, in front of Cookie Kunty and the audience and judges at the Drag Olympus.

The coda finds Samia and Baptiste amicably separated, a new women in Baptiste's life, and a splendid gallery show of Baptiste's photo story about "drag...les coulisses," the backstage world of drag.

The most interesting part of this sweet, colorful, but overly bland film is its sense of the world of the in-between, and the complexity of definition for people who want "everything to be simple," as Quentin/Cookie says of his liife. The drag queens have approved Baptieste's photographing them out of makeup and preparing for drag, but they don't permit him to shoot them as males. But also as is briefly mentioned in the van traveling to the competition, femmes can drag, bi's can wear drag, "trannies" can wear drag: it's open to everyone. It's a world that's fluid that flows around the heightened, heroic celebration of the feminine that is drag.

While ostensibly doing a photo series, Baptiste has quickly become fascinated and sexually drawn to the gender-mixing world of louche gayness and particularly to Cookie/Quentin. And it turns out Baptiste is as ambiguous as anyone else. Is he gay, straight, questioning? It is hard to tell what's fiction here and whats just acting out - and that is interesting, when we feel the embarrassment of Baptiste. But he drags his feet. He's a tease: but he is out representative, an "ordinary" person who's tempted into the world we're entering.

The film critic of French media journal Les Inrockuptibles concluded about Three Nights a Weeks: "If the film accurately describes the double facet of the life of a drag queen: the colorful and festive scene but also the less glamorous backstage world (homophobia, long make-up sessions), it fails, by dint of being too wise and educational, to recapture through real directorial choices the full subversive force, political audacity and biting humor of the drag world." Yes and this is just enjoyable, deluxe tourism, I guess. And well but the last thing we see is a big question mark. Baptiste may not be done playing. But it's just another easy gesture in this easy, pleasant film.

Three Nights a Week/Trois jours par semaine, 103 mins., debuted in Directors' Week at Venice Aug. 31, 2022, showing also at Namur, Rio, Taipei and Santa Barbara. It was screened for this review as part of the (Mar. 2-12, 2023) Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Nov. 9, 2022 French release; AlloCiné press rating 3.1 (62%). Screened as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Showtimes:
Saturday, March 11 at 3:15pm (Q&A with Florent Gouëlou)
Sunday, March 12 at 6:15pm

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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