Le Doux amour des hommes (2002)

5 05 2008

A beautifully realized, in spite of its budget, tragic love story that unfortunately has not gotten the attention it deserves. I’m not quite sure why director Jean-Paul Civeyrac is under the radar, but I can’t help but think that his decision to use DV is a factor. The “mumblecore” aesthetic has become a touchstone of low-budget film making but Civeyrac tries to do something more poetic and the result approaches a style closer to Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046. At the same time, this is also an incredibly truthful and perceptive look at relationships. Dramatized? Absolutely, but it still manages to come off as real.

Raoul, a sexually active and young poet, drifts from woman to woman in an attempt to capture a true connection. He sees a former girlfriend and is suddenly stricken with sadness. Later that day, he becomes acquainted with Jeanne, who is equally out-going and wild. In no time, they become lovers, but Jeanne does not welcome Raoul’s deeper feelings. Instead, she pushes them aside, almost always preferring empty sex. Raoul is use to this, but he is unable to engage in such a relationship with Jeanne and eventually love gets the worst of everyone.

In addition to the stylistic similarities, this also anticipates, in terms of narrative structure, Aaron Katz’s more publicized but equally fascinating Dance Party USA. The perspective is a bit more personal here, but the story unfolds in a similar fashion. Both films follow a deep connection made by young(er) adults who have saturated their lives with unemotional sexual encounters. Civeyrac’s film is ultimately far more tragic and conventionally dramatic than Katz’s, but both seem to have an understanding of human relationships. It might be premature, but it is quite possible that both directors are equivalents to Korea’s Hong Sang-Soo, perhaps the single most important director when it comes to modern relationship dramas.

To continue with the comparisons between Civeyrac and Katz, I find that both directors are the only ones that are working in the realm of low-budget, sloppy DV productions but still put effort into their films’ visuals. In this category, Katz is probably the clear winner but that’s only because his shakycam aesthetic fits in better much. Civeyrac’s style seems to be closer to a Wong Kar-Wai run through digital filtering which creates a fair share of visually awkward moments. This doesn’t really damper the experience of the film too much, but one can’t help imagine what the film would look like if it were shot in 35mm. Still, for what it is worth, this one of the most accomplished films I’ve seen anyone put out in the last couple years. Well, anyone outside of Asia, anyway.

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One response

5 05 2008
Pacze Moj

Interesting; and you’re right, I hadn’t heard of director Civeyrac.

I do enjoy the feel of a well-shot DV film, though. While I also love film, I’ve never quite understood the aversion to video that some people seem to have. That first shot, with the wall in the background, is very nice.

Definitely a film to add to my to-watch list.

Thanks.

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