Honoré’s erotic bodies reach beyond cliché
by Gabriele Barcaro
09/08/2010 - According to director Christophe Honoré, today as in the past, French cinema lacks films and actors that explore virility in all its facets. “Actors’ bodies,” he says,” are often covered, protected, de-eroticized.” How then does one make “a film of bodies”, explore male eroticism, especially that which is “beyond the clichés of aggressive sexuality”? Perhaps by turning to someone used to exhibiting his physicality, to the point of creating a catalyst of desire.
Thus arose the collaboration between the director of Making Plans for Lena [trailer] and porn actor François Sagat, who with his statuesque physique and tattooed scalp plays Emmanuel, the titular character of Man at Bath [trailer], Honoré’s latest film, which takes its name from Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte’s late 19th century painting of a nude man seen from behind.
This unusual, self-produced film was first a short that eventually grew with little money, in order to preserve, says the filmmaker, "stylistic and narrative freedom”. The films opens in Gennevilliers, with Sagat getting out of the shower, observed by his partner Omar (Omar Ben Sellem), who is about to leave for New York to “video-stalk” an actress (Chiara Mastroianni) for work. After some brutal sex, the two part on bad terms, to the tune of “I don’t want to find you here when I get back,” and “Screw you”.
They go their separate ways, trying to prove, above all to themselves, that they no longer love one another. Seducing and picking up lovers on both sides of the Atlantic, aspiring actors and curious youths. This is a chronicle of a broken relationship, set against the Lincoln Center and the Big Apple (with wobbly digital images – Mastroianni didn’t even know it would become a film), as well as the large buildings of Gennevilliers on the Parisian outskirts, a “scorching” neighbourhood from various points of view, here erotic as well, which is dear to the director’s heart.
Voyeurs, however, beware: despite Sagat’s many nudes scenes, this is not an easy film. And the explicit sex, like the desire, plays an ambivalent role, consoling and frustrating, liberating and enslaving. The passion for musicals of the director of Love Songs [trailer] is obvious in the great soundtrack and the campiest sequences, such as Sagat’s “desperate housewife” flouncing about with feathers and detergent while cleaning. Elsewhere, as he poses like a Greek statue to please an art critic, the brawny protagonist is told he’s kitschy, a risk on which Honoré’s films verge as well.
(Translated from Italian)