François Ozon began his film-making profession in 2000 with an adaptation of an unproduced stage play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Water Drops on Burning Rocks. Now, to open this 12 months’s Berlin movie pageant, he has returned to the darkish grasp of New German Cinema with a gender-switched model of Fassbinder’s 1972 movie The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, that unusual, angular, claustrophobic drama through which solely ladies seem on display screen.
Fassbinder’s movie is ready totally within the residence of a designer who has an emotionally abusive relationship along with her live-in assistant, after which conceives a mad and despairing love for a lovely younger girl who overtly cheats on her. Ozon makes a few of these characters males, however solely a few of them. We now have to hope he doesn’t get the type of grief that Paul Feig acquired for his all-female Ghostbusters, from Fassbinder followers claiming he has trashed their childhoods.
Ozon has eliminated the bitter tears from the title and in addition the movie itself. For all of the histrionics, it is a lot extra genial, campy and comedian than Fassbinder’s gaunt ordeal. And that’s all the way down to it being (largely) male. The feminine fashionista is now a male film director, Peter von Kant, boisterously performed by Denis Ménochet – with hints that he’s form of imagined to be Fassbinder himself, although Fassbinder was so much harder and extra unsentimental than this man.
Peter has a deadpan houseboy-slash-amanuensis known as Karl (Stefan Crepon) who hilariously (versus tragically or erotically) is the intimate witness to all of the passionate confrontations between Peter and his lover. Petra’s bitchy feminine frenemy from the primary movie remains to be feminine: Sidonie, performed by Isabelle Adjani. Additionally nonetheless feminine is Peter’s teen daughter, residence from boarding faculty, performed by Aminthe Audiard (grandniece of Jacques). Her pert presence is what makes this (like Water Drops on Burning Rocks) resemble one thing by Noël Coward. Peter’s lovely, duplicitous lover Amin is performed by Khalil Ben Gharbia and Hanna Schygulla, who performed the lover function in 1972, has been introduced again to play Peter’s mom.
The dynamics are positively completely different now that there are each women and men on the display screen: it’s much less airless and crazed, though simply as theatrical and synthetic. Ozon typically offers his characters stagey entrances by framing them self-consciously in a doorway. Ozon’s chief coup on this film is making Peter a movie director, which means Peter may give Amin a display screen check then and there in his residence, throughout which he asks Amin about his dad and mom’ tragic loss of life because the digital camera is rolling and responds with the depth – half sadistic, half empathetic – of the killer in Peeping Tom. Each Ménochet and Gharbia are superb on this scene.
But there’s something lighter, nearly flippant and French-farcical about this new Von Kant: a person introduced low by l’amour, inviting from the viewers hardly greater than a cosmopolitan, sympathetic shrug.