Friday, September 11, 2009

Pascal-Alex Vincent's GIVE ME YOUR HAND makes NYC Debut at Quad Cinemas

TrustMovies is unfamiliar with director and sometimes writer Pascal-Alex Vincent's earlier work -- eight short films, some of which seem to have caused a stir on the gay festival circuit -- so he arrived with no specific expectations for this young filmmaker's newest and first full-length feature, Give Me Your Hand (Donne-moi la main). It's an odd piece that demands the viewer's willingness (or maybe ability) to put visuals above dialog and allow the filmmaker to take some time to unfold his story. (Only 77 minutes long, including credits, it won't take up that much of your time.)

The first few minutes of the movie are animated, which might make you think you have stumbled into a French children's film in which twin brothers take off from their father's bakery in the middle of the night. Do not despair if you're not an animation fan, however; post-credits, all is live-action and we soon learn that the two are heading for Spain and the funeral of their recently departed mother. The twins are played by the wildly photogenic "identicals," Alexandre and Victor Carril, and whatever you may end up thinking about the film, I suspect you'll agree that this pair is very easy on the eyes. (You can most quickly differentiate them by the scar the appears over one's eyebrow.)

Looking somewhat like a young (and even more attractive) Daniel Day-Lewis, the two are highly physical with each other, often engaging in hand-to-hand combat. From where this comes is hard to say; it simply seems a part of their behavior -- how they most easily connect. Give Me Your Hand takes the form of a road trip, with pit stops along the way for food, sex and earning a little money; the boys don't seem to have given much thought to anything but leaving dad and bakery and eventually, somehow, arriving for the funeral in Spain. But when you look this good, I suppose, it makes travel easier and a lot more interesting. Along the way they meet a young girl who takes to the road with them, a work crew which they join briefly to earn enough to continue their journey and a few other folk who turn out to offer help, sex and what have you.

The New York Times reviewer (his opinion is here) compares this film to Betrand Blier's Going Places, and thus finds it wanting. Other than featuring two French guys on the road, the films have little in common. To begin with, Give Me Your Hand deals with identical twins, and this changes everything: psychology, story, sexuality, identity, history, the works. The "twins" factor helps makes the lack of dialog, even exposition, seem more real and less affected. It also opens the door to viewing gay sex in a manner different from what filmgoers may be used to: one that brings the film to its climax and denouement in a rich, sorrowful way. Here, society's attitude becomes so close and personal that it is reduced not just to conflict within a single family, but within a pair in which "I" and the "other" are practically one. How much closer -- yet how much farther apart -- can you get?

This makes up the very large heart of Give Me Your Hand, an auspicious full-length debut for M. Vincent, and a treat for film buffs who want to glory in the French and Spanish mountains and countryside. Glory, too, in a number of odd but sympathetic characters -- the lovely woman on the train, above, is one such -- whom the boys encounter, each captured in brief but full strokes so that their humanity, as well as their quirks, come shining through. The movie opens today, via Strand Releasing, for a theatrical run at New York City's Quad Cinemas.


Johnlovesparis said...

Great film !

James van Maanen, said...

Well, a very good one, at least. Thanks for the comment, Johnlovesparis. So does Jim.