Monday, April 7, 2014

Better late than... Alain Guiraudie's succulent THE KING OF ESCAPE gets theatrical premiere at AFA

Finally. This odd and original movie, five years old -- from a director, Alain Guiraudie, who's been working for nearly a quarter century but only now (thanks to Stranger by the Lake) is getting some deserved notoriety -- is at last receiving its U.S. theatrical release via Anthology Film Archives here in New York City. In THE KING OF ESCAPE, M. Guiraudie, shown below back in 2009 when this film was made, picks up on themes and places seen later in Stranger by the Lake.

Here are all kinds of sexuality (particularly homo- and bi-), the working class' need to offset its work with relaxation, and locations set in the glorious and sparsely populated French countryside. But as dark and unsettling as was Stranger by the Lake regarding our need for self-abasement and punishment, sex and death, The King of Escape, is every bit as light-hearted and frisky as its explores our entwined need for the fulfillment of life, love and sex, while honoring (and questioning) the family ties that bind.

Both Stranger and King are quite enjoyable to watch and very well-made, with the latter perhaps gaining an edge over the former due to its sheer originality and joie de vivre. (I've now seen both films twice.) What happens in King is bizarre and all over the place yet, as depicted by Guiraudie, it's remains oddly believable--and certainly understandable.

I first covered the film (stills from which are shown above and below) when it initially played NYC as part of the 2010 Rendez-vous with French Cinema and found it an unusually enticing and surprising work, with a wonderfully inclusive sense of the amazements that sex of all kinds can bring. In one of its best scenes, an 80-year-old man, known for the size of his member and still randy as hell (played by Jean Toscan, shown below, center), explains to his new half-his-age love, how he spent the first several decades of his marriage dutifully fucking his wife each day (along with several other ladies), never realizing till now that there was a whole regiment of men out there, just waiting to be explored and pleased.

The marketing of tractors, the importance of their color, and the gay and overweight fellow who sells them (the marvelous Ludovic Berthillot, below); competition among salesmen; a Viagra-like mushroom found in the local terrain, and a gorgeous and wonderfully pliable young girl (Hafsia Herzi, seen above in several shots) who gets a crush on our gay hero when he tries to protect her from some nasty local boys -- all of this combines to create a world never before seen by us prosaic Americans.

It's difficult to explain just how cleverly Guiraudie has wrapped all this together -- so loosely yet so neatly. His attitude toward it all is clear and non-judgmental and so allows us to view surprising things in a manner that we've not yet experienced. And for once, the policeman in charge of things (below, left) turn out to be, well, quite helpful and understanding.

The King of Escape is as unusual a movie as you are likely to find, so I urge you to seek it out. This week-long run may be your first and last chance to view it, here in the USA, at least. The film plays at AFA beginning this Friday, April 11, through Thursday, April 17. Click here for directions and here for tickets.

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