film note: J’embrasse pas

In this minor masterpiece from 1991, André Téchiné tells the story of a pretentious, shit-heel country boy who moves to Paris to become an actor, only to discover he’s terrible at acting, even the social kind; who falls into bed with an older woman who worships and supports him for the most generic of reasons; who becomes a hustler of gay men, even though he loathes them; he finally runs away, back home, defeated. But I ended up loving him. Why? Because at the end, he embraces his failures, and his inconsistencies. He still wants to go back. And there was such a tiny triumph in the film’s final seconds in long shot that ended up making me feel so happy for him. He’d determined to keep a promise made only to himself. That’s a reminder that that’s all most of us get.

Godard may think that tracking shots are a matter of morality and Moullet the reverse, and Rivette may have corrected and clarified them both when he talked about realism and the pornography of pure reenactment (see: Prisoners) but I think that Téchiné’s camera proves from film to film that moral realism is a matter of characters. Could I love (or hate) this character, these characters? Can I forgive them? And do the reasons feel real? Does it feel earned?

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