Sunday, April 6, 2014

FIAF hosts U.S. premiere of Guillaume Gallienne's César multi-award-winner ME, MYSELF AND MUM

The big winner at this year's César awards (the French Oscars, as they are sometime called) with ten nominations and five wins -- Best Picture, Best First Film, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing (yep, most of the big ones) was the little movie that could: Guillaume Gallienne's ME, MYSELF AND MUM, in which M. Gallienne portrays both himself and his mother, as he tells what appears to be an autobiograp-hical tale of his days growing up as the fel-low who doesn't fit in.

The original French title of the film -- Les garçons et Guillaume, à table! -- translates as something like "Boys and Guillaume -- time to eat!", the joke of which of course is that Guillaume is a boy. So why the differentiation? Well, it's because Mum perceives him as different (read, homosexual) and so treats him as such, as do his brothers and dad. M. Gallienne, pictured at left, certainly does an admirable job of playing gay (one might say that he leaves no cliché unturned), whether it's learning to dance in Spain (below), failing and flailing at every single attempt at sports, or visiting a gay club to be nearly inaugurated into something quite naughty.

If the movie sounds likes every third coming-of-age gay film you've seen since puberty (well, for you younger viewers, at least), let me tell you that it is a good deal more sophisticated than that. If the behavior at the heart of the film seems sometimes standard, the packaging is anything but. Gallienne has adapted his film from an earlier stage piece of the same name, and even though he begins and ends it on that stage, the film is certainly not stage-bound. Instead it lifts off into the past and then the present, back and forth, taking Guillaume from late teenage years to young manhood and beyond and from France to Spain to England and finally to a high-end German spa. (Yes, that's Diane Kruger, below, as the lady who's about to introduce him to colonics.)

The actor pretty convincingly loses 20 years as the movie goes from his young self to older, while his performance as mom (below) is quite special, leaving her character part harridan, part muse, part mystery. (Stephen Sondheim will definitely want to catch this film.)

How Gallienne turns his somewhat typical tale into something special is what, in fact, makes his movie special. The style he brings to the enterprise, the way he and his editor (Valérie Deseine, who won one of those Césars) create magic from melded moments, and especially how his fleet screenplay (the movie lasts but 85 minutes) finds so many connections that resonate -- such as the huge, horse-like cock on the fellow (below) who presents himself to our hero, and how this takes Guillaume back to his failed horseback-riding lessons with, this time, a renewed desire to succeed and, as it were, conquer his fear.

There's a surprise to the story which may or may not reveal itself to you before our hero spills the beans. This changes everything on one level, and nothing on another. It should certainly give audiences -- gay and straight -- pause regarding gay-baiting and gay liberation.

Spoiler ahead: Don't read this paragraph until after you've seen the film. In the movie that won last year's César as Best Film, What's In a Name? (Le prenom), one of the film's ensemble characters that everyone assumes is gay, is revealed to be -- oh, my -- straight, to the surprise and consternation of all his friends. Now, this year, the same thing has happened again in the "Best Film." Twice is nice, but should this occur a third time I think we must declare a trend. But what does this signify? Of course it's about not pinning labels on people so easily. But it also may be showing us how much easier it is to welcome gay liberation when your character actually isn't. Which may also be why, after same-sex marriage was legalized last year in France, the outcry against it dwarfed that in any other country where it has been given legality, including here in the USA and even in Spain (land of the Catholic Inquisition!).

In any case, Me, Myself and Mum, is a lot of good, stylish fun, and can be seen at the French Institute/Alliance Francaise (FIAF) on Tuesday, April 8, at 4 and 7:30pm in FIAF’s Florence Gould Hall. The 7:30pm screening will be introduced by renowned agent, producer, and founder of the Festival du Film Francophone d’Angoulême, Dominique Besnéhard. The two CinéSalon screenings are presented as the Closing Night of the Focus on French Cinema festival. The 4pm screening will be followed by a wine reception, and the 7:30pm screening will be followed by a festive Closing Night Party with delicious champagne and hors d’oeuvres. (As of now there are not many tickets left for the 7:30 screening, but the 4pm is still available. Click here to purchase.)

I don't know that this film has a U.S. distributor yet, 
though it's hard to image it not getting one. Eventually. 
There's a built-in audience, after all, though that audience 
may feel a little left-out at the film's finale.

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