Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 3:17 am 
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Drier than dry

Another Cannes 2007 Directors' Fortnight film, Jacques Nolot's latest continues a distinctive body of work in which an apparently dry, ironic, openly gay French point of view predominates. Nolot himself, a rather handsome Mediterranean type in his late fifties, stars as Pierre, a blocked writer, former gigolo, HIV-positive for 24 years (rather unusual), reveals himself starkly in dark opening scenes where he tosses and turns, vomits, and exhibits a sagging chest and protruding belly. (He still has all his hair and a tan and looks stylish in his clothes.) He pees into the sink and orders up a call boy for fellatio. All this is surprisingly elegant and even witty as the film progresses from conversation to conversation, cigarette to cigarette in a diaristic look at the artist as a jaded gay man who sees one friend who's maintained him for years die, another inherit a fortune in art work, and arranges at the end with a muscular gigolo to act out his wildest fantasy.

Pierre sees a shrink three times a week--a younger gay man who encourages him to go with younger gay men, believing it will give him a boost. Nolot is frank about his own sexuality, which seems to be of a well-off bourgeois kind, but he doesn't show gay society as we know it in America. Where are the gay parties, gay bars, gay couples, or even just gay support groups? The solidarity available to urban gay men in the US seems missing here, where French gays have full intellectual self-acceptance but don't seem to envision the possibility of a positive lifestyle--of political action, for example, longtime companionship, adoption (or fun?). Depressed coping is the rule of the day. To what extent is Nolet/Pierre's aloneness self-imposed? There is also a fascination with money, who has it, how to get it, how to keep it. One sequence given climactic position is of the auction where the big art collection is sold off.

Pierre talks about considering suicide. Life is a string of cigarettes, or cups of coffee taken with a world-weary air. Pierre copes, but he does not thrive. Where are life's enthusiasms? All in the past, it seems. He reads aloud a love letter from the Eighties with slightly tearful wistfulness. Lost perhaps in the hedonism of a vanished youth, he can't get a positive grip on the present, but won't let it go either. This is a very urbane and European treatment of a life that's been reduced to mechanical coping. But isn't it a bit of a pose, since Nolet has the energy to produce a distinctive sequence of works--to act in 65 films and direct four of his own--the 1986 Manège, the 1998 Arrière-Pays, the 2002 La Chatte à deux têtes,/Porn Theater, which had limited US distribution; and this, which, "low-budget" or no, did cost 400,000 euros to make?

Avant que j'oublie/Before I Forget: seen at MK2 Hautefeuille, Paris, October 2007. Also featured at the even more arthouse-focused MK2 Beaubourg, where handsome large posters of Nolot's last three films are on display.

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