Oh dear! 27and annual edition of Rendez-vous with French cinema offers a trio of films by queer filmmakers or featuring LGBTQ characters.
One of the highlights of this year’s program is “Guermantes”, directed by our gay filmmaker Christophe Honoré. The film features a cast of more than a dozen actors from the Comédie-Française troupe (playing themselves) as they rehearse a production of Proust’s “Le Côté de Guermantes”.
At the start of the film, the show was canceled due to the pandemic and it will likely never be staged. However, Honoré, the production manager, encourages the actors to keep rehearsing – “just for us”. The staging sheds interesting light on the relationship between the actors as well as with their director. But it’s the offstage antics that make “Guermantes” interesting.
The film has a fabulous hangout vibe as the actors turn to their own little worlds. Laurent Lafitte shows the trailer for his new film and insists on an upcoming production of “Cyrano”. (He gives a real homoerotic twist to this text, becoming very sensitive with the actor with whom he plays one evening.) During a group meal, someone who heard an actress’s phone call misunderstands the context of the discussion, an embarrassing moment.
Other mini-dramas arise. Sébastien is upset that Anne is eating him (naked, he claims), while another actor assumes that the relationship between Serge and his boyfriend Léolo – who is 30 years younger than Serge – involves a financial arrangement.
“Guermantes” has a laid-back pace that makes it enjoyable to watch the actors have a meal, fall asleep in the theater, play ping-pong on stage, or dress up and hole up in a suite at the Ritz (à la Proust). It becomes fun to hang out with these people as they chat about love or stand in line in front of a fire in their underwear. Honoré’s film is not the play, but “Guermantes” underlines that there is beauty in the gesture of doing it – even if it is vain. His jovial film captures the dynamics at play during production, and that, in and of itself, has merit.
Rendez-vous with French cinema offers moviegoers the opportunity to see two films before their theatrical release in April.
“Anais in love”
The main character of “Anaïs in Love” (Anaïs Demoustier) is a carefree young student who is late for every appointment, behind on her thesis – on passion at 17and literature of the century—and owes two months’ rent. Her charms can appease those who are impatient with her (her landlady, her thesis supervisor), but they also capture the attention of Daniel (Denis Podalydès), whom she meets one evening at a party. The much older man, a publisher, is smitten with the impulsive young woman and they begin an affair. However, it ends almost as abruptly as it began.
Moreover, Anaïs soon falls in love with Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), a writer who is Daniel’s companion. She feels a deep connection with this woman she barely knows, especially after reading one of Emilie’s books. Hoping to live out her desire, Anaïs pursues Emilie at all costs, and the two women bond during a literary colloquium, where Emilie speaks. But as they are dancing together one day, Daniel shows up. Her efforts to control the situation – to keep Anaïs away from Emelie – only pushes the young enchantress to up her game and seduce her crush. Will love win? “Anaïs in Love” pulls off Demoustier’s irresistible appeal – if viewers don’t find her maniacal nature irritating.
“Paris, 13and District”
“Paris, 13and District” is a stylish romantic drama directed by Jacques Audiard, who co-wrote the screenplay with lesbian filmmaker Céline Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”) and Léa Mysius. The interlocking narratives are adapted from stories by Adrian Tomine. The film, shot in brilliant black and white, opens with a wonderful tracking shot that features Émilie Wong (Lucie Zhang), an aimless young woman, and Camille (Makita Samba), a teacher who becomes her roommate and, briefly, her lover.
When Émilie becomes jealous that Camille has joined Stéphanie (Océane Cairaty), he moves out. Cut to Nora (Noémie Merlant from “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”), a law student who is mistaken for porn star Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth). One night, Nora befriends Amber on her website. She also leaves school and works with Camille in a real estate agency.
Nora and Camille become lovers, but their bond is more emotional than physical. As Émilie returns, Audiard elegantly films all the personal and professional adventures, using split screens and time jumps to follow all the couplings, decouplings and recouplings.
The attractive and often naked actors are fun to watch as they experience their romantic trials and tribulations. However, despite its potential, “Paris, 13and District” is not a specifically queer film; there’s only one same-sex kiss (maybe two) in the whole movie, but it has a nice payoff.
For tickets, schedules and full lineup, visit www.filmlinc.org.
MEETING WITH FRENCH CINEMA | March 3-13 | Filming at Lincoln Center