Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Only Want You To Love Me


You could see it coming with Sous Le Sable (Under The Sand). The filmic eccentricities of France's no-longer-enfant-terrible cum pride-and-joy François Ozon diminish picture by picture. Where there were once musical numbers popping out of nowhere and giant man eating rats, now there are bobos and large Parisian apartments. Ozon's last film (the newer offering, Le Temp Qui Reste, garnered posters on every street corner when I was in Paris a couple weeks ago) 5x2 is more visually comparable to a Banana Republic add than the sort of Fassbinder meets Waters of his older films. And there are no ACTUAL rats to speak of. Instead there are rat people. Neither Marion nor Gilles are what one would call healthy people, but hey, isn't that a good thing. I mean, who in their right mind would want to watch two healthy people for 90 minutes? And it is this slow burn of inner yearning that has replaced Ozon's more playful absurdity.

For this viewer, Ozon's contemporary films are an entire movie based around one single scene. The key scene for 2003's The Swimming Pool was that in which Charlotte Rampling sits down at the café and, after eating nothing but bland yogurt straight from the plastic at home, devours a plate of sumptuous profiteroles. This scene is all you need to decode the rest of the film, and The Swimming Pool is made cheap by its M. Night Shamalamallama ending. At the moment, it makes you go "Ooohh," but this is an exclamation that sadly does not last as long as those profiteroles Ramplings plate, and the film's subtler moments are the real strengths. 5x2 labors under a similar function.

Modeled after odious films like Momento and Irreversible in terms of structure, the film fails to really establish our protagonists as characters of depth as we are constantly aware that they are constructed as the most contemptible figures possible. Even this could hold a legitimacy, as you could count on your right hand the number of honest characters Ozon's hero Fassbinder depicted in his films. But there seems to be such a drive to make these characters particularly shifty. When Marion has their baby prematurely, Gilles is nowhere to be found, he visits while she is unconscious, but only after a day does he call Marion to apologize.

The acting is similarly flawed, though Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is quite a delight to look at. In an opening scene, she lays nude with a large breast - a dead weight planted on crisp white hotel sheets. Not since Tilda Swinton's deliciously unattractive sexual performance as Ella Gault in Young Adam has blasé sexuality been so frank. Ozon's direction is decent though, and the uninteresting story (fueled only by its plot device) becomes a remotely appealing yarn. His best decision here is his use of music. Separating the five in-reverse-order scenes is a colorful soundtrack which harks back to the musical number in Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes (Water Drops on Burning Rocks). I would like to ignore the fact that most of these songs are in Italian and eventually we find our lovers meeting at an Italian resort (it's a connection that makes a little too much sense, for a movie that presents many odd occurrences sans explanation). Sadly, what I would like to coin "the profiterole moment" occurs in the DVD's deleted scene section (so I am at a standstill whether to even discuss it here) where Ozon deviates slightly from the film's construct to present us with a prologue. In the newly moved in domicile, Marion happens upon Gilles reading a copy of L'Histoire d'O. Suddenly the film has a more apparent sense of context. The question of ownership and independence is what has been guiding this film all along. I realize that this scene disturbed the structure of the film, but really, rules like this are just made to be broken. Even if you're Lars Von Trier.


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