Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fiddling w/philosophy, flirting w/significance: Jérôme Reybaud's FOUR DAYS IN FRANCE

At this point in time there is really a rather amazing amount of diverse -- in both style and content -- filmmakers who cover the GLBT territory internationally. From François Ozon and Gregg Araki to João Pedro Rodrigues and newcomer Händl Klaus, the list keeps growing. To it we must now add Jérôme Reybaud, a Frenchman (France may very probably have the largest number of these, percentage-wise, at least) whose first narrative film, 4 DAYS IN FRANCE (Jours de France), has its U.S. theatrical release this week in New York City.

France being the country that appears (in TrustMovies' estimation anyway) to most pride itself on philosophy and its discontents, it would make sense that M. Reybaud (shown at right) and his film would concern itself with this. And so it does, but in ways very different from any of this country's other movie-makers who cover the GLBT scene (think of the work of Ozon, filmmaking duo Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, Alain Guiraudie, or that of Patric Chiha, to name four of many off the top of my head). Every moviemaker's "take" on humanity and homosexuality is different, as it should be, which makes so many of these movies varied and interesting.

In M. Reybaud's tale, Pierre Thomas (whom I will refer to henceforth as PT), one of a pair of lovers (played by Pascal Cervo, above) makes his very early morning exit from the other (and perhaps from the relationship itself), setting off on what he hopes will be a kind of buffet of sexual experience around the country and countryside. When his mate, Paul (Arthur Igual, below), awakens to find his PT missing, it is only when he notices the other's toothbrush gone as well that he realizes this is probably more than a mere night on the town.

Though PT has taken off in  the pair's white Alfa Romeo and has a good head start on Paul, the latter hightails it out after his love, and so the movie becomes a kind of "chase" film -- though of the most modulated variety you can imagine. Slow does not begin to describe this particular car chase.

Along PT's route, the nearing-middle-age man discovers one after another woman who appears to need help (at least in Pierre Thomas' mind) and so his journey becomes anything but a sexual romp. The first of these is played by Fabienne Babe (above), whose car has broken down and who needs a lift to and from her work. Another is an old lady (played by the now-deceased Dorothée Blanck, below) who turns out to be more interested in hawking god than receiving help.

Not that our boy doesn't have a little hot sex along the way, with the Paris-smitten sweetie shown below. Don't worry: No full-frontal here, except via cell phone photo, the close-up shot of which sets off immediate recognition in Paul of his lover's genitalia (I'm not sure I could have done that with any one of my partners' packages over the years).

Each of these tiny hook-ups (a couple sexual, most not -- Paul, evidently bisexual, even gets a blow-job from a randy waitress along the way) results in the very minor exploration of a wide variety of topics: old age, education, thievery, identity, theater, Italian automobile manufacturing, geography, passion, separation, religion, and even death.

Since Paul is following PT via apps like Grinder, we get some technology tossed into the mix, too, as well as a little of the sort of inter-generational sex (below) found in the films of the great gay-bi filmmaker Guiraudie. Yet nothing is explored here in any depth. Instead Reybaud flits from one topic to another, with enough coincidence that you begin to imagine that happenstance is more the man's style than his content.

Certainly 4 Days in France wants to explore the gay (maybe it's just the male) urge to fuck around. It does this, but it also takes two hours and twenty-two minutes to do so. Finally it seems that our filmmaker is telling us little more than certain popular old chestnuts: Yes, "the Grass Is Always Greener," but isn't it probably best to be "Back in Your Own Backyard?"

I'm pleased to have seen this film, and will now add Reybaud's name to my list of filmmaker's to watch. Recommending the movie to others, however, comes with the above caveats. (Did I mention that the film also features a nice turn by Liliane Montevecchi? That may be reason enough for some of you to view it.)

From Cinema Guild, in French with English subtitles, this gay "art film" opens Friday, August 4 in New York City at the Quad Cinema. (There will be a Q&A with the director Jérôme Reybaud on Friday, Aug. 4 & Saturday, Aug. 5, at the 6:40 shows.) In Los Angeles, the film will open August 11 at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts, with a limited national release to follow.

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